August, 2016 Issue

From the Chair...
NBS Fall Conference Sept 16-17




NBS Bylaws Changes- Voting at Fall Conference
NBS Board of Directors Meeting
Newsletter Archive Links
 Time to Renew Your Membership?


Productions Around the Region
Student Scholarships to attend National Conference



• Member Renewal Form
• Mission & Information

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MMHC Theatre- an International Destination for Theatre Designers, Scenic Artists and Theatre Historians!

by Wendy Waszut-Barrett
    On June 24, 2016, the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center (MMHC) opened its doors to the public for the first time.  A Masonic processional and public dedication proceeded the exploration of this new facility.  MMHCExteriorThe 47,000 square foot facility in Bloomington, MN, is connected to Minnesota Masonic Home - an eldercare facility and home to a variety of masonic governing bodies. It includes a 425-seat theatre, Masonic museum, Masonic library, Lodge Room, gift shop, boardroom, archival storage, commercial kitchen, and banquet facility.

Working on a Large-Scale Project- Putting education and experience to the Test!
    I was hired as the Historical Consultant for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center in August, 2014, and my duties included providing historic examples, visual sources, original artwork, and dimensional models for a variety of companies that included the architectural firm of TheatreTWP, the interior design teams of MCM Interiors and Nelson Design, the theatre consulting firm of Schuler Shook Minneapolis, the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center Task Force, the MMHC museum and library design team, the MMHC contractors, and  the Minnesota Masonic Charities Board.  I also represented MMC, MMH, and MMHC as a personal representative who would interface with a variety of subcontractors, including Dave Peterson AV, Gaytee Palmer Stained Glass, St. Louis Antique Lighting, Irwin Theatre Seating, Pineapple Advertising, a variety of website designers, and many other theatrical/new construction vendors. I was the MMHC spokesperson who represented the entire project and answered questions during live construction meetings, radio interviews, and corporate meetings through the design and construction phase that led up to opening day this past June. 
    In the summer of  2015, I accepted the position of Curatorial Director for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center- a position that was scheduled to start in June, 2016.  I made plans to move into this new position and closed my scenic restoration company, Bella Scena, LLC.    During 2015 and early 2016 I continued on as the MMHC Historical Consultant and contributed to the MMHC project as Opening Museum Exhibit Curator, MMHC Library Administrator, and In-House Designer for Murals, FineArt, and Scenery Restoration. For the MMHC museum, I designed the thematic flow for six galleries, selected all initial artifacts, and assigned necessary text for exhibit panels written by both national and local masonic scholars.  For the library, I accepted acquisitions, Libraryprovided preliminary assessments, and inventoried the transportation and preliminary processing of new collections. For the processing of MMHC’s 10,000+ library acquisition from the Valley of St. Paul, I was extremely fortunate for a variety of volunteers! I was especially lucky to have Professors Emeritus Larry Hill and Jean Montgomery who graciously StainedGlassvolunteered their time, expertise, and talent to the MMHC Library! I also designed the artistic concept sketches, provided full-scale drawing details,  and selected the necessary colored glass for a new stained glass window in the MMHC Lobby manufactured by Gaytee Palmer Stained Glass (Northeast Mpls, MN.).  For the MMHC Masonic Lodge I designed several murals and fine art for the space.  In the end, a single fine art piece was selected for the lodge room.  For the opening, I designed and painted a 6’-6’ x 9’6” acrylic painting of King Solomon’s Temple for the Lodge room with the assistance of Annie Henley.  (virtual Tourof the MMHC facility located at

Mural    There is no doubt that my theatrical training at the University of Minnesota facilitated my career at the MMHC.  I was fortunate to be under the tutelage of professors emeritus Lance Brockman, Jean Montgomery, and Martin Gwinup. They greatly contributed to my career as a scenic artist, carpenter, and overall problem-solver; these abilities were an asset in any workplace!  Furthermore, the University of Minnesota Centennial Showboat’s venue was not only a teaching tool for me as an undergraduate and graduate student, but also a training ground for a theatrical professional. Without my experience from the Showboat productions during 1989 to 2013 seasons, I would not have the practical experience that I have today, nor the many artistic skills that made my international career and reputation.  I am forever grateful for the U of MN faculty that supported me during each of my degrees!

Historic Scenic Art- A Passion of Mine
    During my brief time as Curatorial Director, my position encouraged the design of a new North American rigging system for a historic riggingscenery collection. Last November, I supervised a rigging team provided by Ty Prewitt of BellaTex, LLC, (Tennessee) to remove and transport the 1924 Sosman & Landis Studio scenery collection to a Minnesota storage facility.  The fraternal scenery was produced for the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Valley in Fort Scott, Kansas by Sosman & Landis Studios of Chicgao. This collection was painted onsite by Thomas Gibbs Moses, final president of Sosman & Landis, at the age of 68 and with the help of one carpenter.  
    I was familiar with the scenic studio collections as an undergraduate - having indexed Moses’ scrapbook and typed manuscript for part of a Undergraduate Research Opportunities Project. This was under the supervision of Prof. Brockman at the UMN. Fortunately, while onsite in Fort Scott we uncovered the personal artifacts of Moses (left during his stay in 1924) were recovered during work breaks!. The Moses family Artifactshas been contacted regarding these personal artifacts. I had the joy of personally uncovering Moses’ paint sweater, his Masonic paint cap, scenic art brushes, glue pot, lining sticks, charcoal, newspapers, and a variety of other artifacts long lost were also uncovered during my stay. All items were uncovered beneath 5” of masonry dust between the temporary studio floor (20’ above SL) and an exterior wall.  Moses’ collection and artifacts are now in the possession of MMHC and awaiting restoration.  The MMHC theatre should be considered an international destination location for theatre designers, scenic artists and theatre historians! 92 historical line sets designed by Dan Culhane hold the premiere collection of Masonic scenery in North America!   Although the restoration has yet to be planned, it will be an international destination location for many. 

Current and Future Plans

    While the Curatorial Director position was not funded, I continue to have a strong passion for historic scenery and scenic art.  I have re-started my scenic restoration business (Bella Scena LLC) and continue to be active as a historical consultant, restoration specialist, scene designer, and scenic art instructor. Contact me through my website:

Editor's Note: Wendy will be delivering the Friday night NBS all-conference session about the OISTAT Research Committee Conference as well as presenting a session at the Fall Conference titled Painted scenery, stage machinery, and other interesting tidbits & Discoveries. Her contact info is: Wendy Waszut-Barrett, Ph.D.   4021 Adair Ave N   Crystal, MN 55422


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