Lovers of the world of “Oz” have followed the yellow brick road since the publication of L. Frank Baum's children's novel, “The Wonderful World of Oz,” in 1900. Following dozens of books set in Oz, stage productions and films, including the iconic 1939 adaptation starring Judy Garland, the magical land of witches and Munchkins still captivates people of all ages.
ESMoA (El Segundo Museum of Art) transforms beginning Thursday, June 13, into Oz with vintage memorabilia and artwork from the nearly 120 years of the Oz universe to current artwork inspired by the Baum series of books.
“There's this whole expanded universe of this world of Oz... we're trying to help people see this whole hidden world that they didn't expect,” said curator Jeff Cason.
The foundation of the exhibit is Baum's first book “The Wonderful World of Oz,” which was followed by 39 other books in the Oz series. All 40 books will be on display at ESMoA as well as original illustrations by W.W. Denslow, John R Neill and others.
“We're featuring a first edition of that book on display and we have a corner of the museum that's almost set up like a collector's library... the imagination and the storytelling of this book kind of flows out and paints all the walls of the museum as if the story has come to life around you,” Cason said.
Five murals, some as high as 15-feet tall, by L.A. artists Aiseborn and Copyison, bring famous locations from Oz to life including Munchkinland, Emerald City and the witch's castle.
Cason, along with ESMoA co-founder Eva Sweeney, enlisted the help of Oz collector's, near and far, including Freddy Fogarty, who Cason has known since they were in the youth drama program in El Segundo. The show even has “Freddy's Corner” featuring items from his collection.
Fogarty said at a sneak preview opening that Oz, “It's a very welcoming accepting place.” He hopes the show will bring awareness to the many facets of Oz to younger generations.
“I discovered Oz at the El Segundo Public Library where we actually had quite a selection of the Oz books,” said Fogarty. “What they've done... is they recreated my room with all the different facets of Oz and my different loves of Oz. My main collection is 'Return to Oz' the not very known Disney sequel from 1985.”
Cason, who produced Broadway in the Park in El Segundo for six years, said he wanted to follow up his immersive production of “The Little Mermaid,” which was produced by his company Sound Stage LIVE in El Segundo last year, with a musical version of “Wizard of Oz” at a non-traditional space. He reached out to Sweeney about ESMoA as a location, and Sweeney was open to explore that, but soon realized the space would not be conducive to a musical production.
Cason said they collaborated on a exhibit that uses technology, including projections, a story book that animates itself, bringing the Oz world to life.
“The idea of using technology to tell the story of Oz is nothing new,” said Cason, citing early stage productions of “Oz” to the 1939 classic film, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.
“Oz” runs through Sept. 21 at ESMoA, located at 208 Main St. in El Segundo.
Admission is free. ESMoA is open Thursday, 1 to 8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit ESMoA.org.