Kevin Mitchael has created an interactive, informative exhibit at the Mattatuck Museum featuring a Mini-Golf course that highlights the history of Waterbury and the museum’s mission.
In December of 2017, Mattatuck Museum patron Kevin Mitchael proposed a special project that delighted the staff. “Mini-golf at the Matt,” he said, “it is sure to be exciting and fun.” Other museums throughout the country have incorporated this interactive game for their visitors with success and the Matt staff was easily won over to his plan. Mitchael suggested that each hole represent a letter in the name Mattatuck, thus providing a nine-hole course related directly to the museum. Each letter was to be thematically associated with a collection item and the letters were grouped in three by gallery space representing the past, present, and future. The first three represented historical Waterbury, the middle three, 20th-century art, and the last three letters were to address the future.
Extensive planning followed by time-consuming design drawings and labor-intensive construction resulted in this special mini-golf course in which players move from the beginning M – historical Waterbury architecture to the last K – The Matt on Mars. Along the way, players learn where in the Museum to find either the object or information about the subject of each hole. The project involved the work and support of many local individuals, institutions, and businesses.
We spoke with curator Kevin Mitchael about this project and his passion for Mini-Golf:
Tell us about your background, where are you originally from? Where did you go to college and what did you study?
For the majority of my career, I was VP of Marketing for Carter’s and Oshkosh B’gosh and CMO for French Toast, Heathtex, Adidas Kids and Carhartt Kids. I grew up in Wichita, KS and went to school at Wichita State University and studied fine art and theatre with a focus on set and costume design.
How did you end up living in Litchfield County?
Working in Manhattan, we wanted a home outside the city and we looked at upstate NYC and Connecticut. We had friends suggest looking at Litchfield County and found a beautiful property in Woodbury with a pond, barn and original schoolhouse built in 1778. We love the town and neighbors.
What inspired you to come up with the concept of mini-golf in a museum?
I’ve had a love of mini-golf most of all my life. The history of mini-golf was always interesting to me. 1930 was a pinnacle year for miniature golf. It was the 6th largest industry, just behind movie making with estimates of 50,000 to 100,000 courses in the US.
I knew that other museums throughout the country had created mini-golf exhibitions, I thought that the Mattatuck Museum was the perfect venue. Robert Burns, the museum director, was very supportive of the idea, as well as his team at The Matt. We would incorporate the museum’s mission into each of the 9 holes throughout the galleries and courtyard. From conception to opening it was just about 8 months.
How would you describe the interactive exhibit?
Mini-golf is so fun to play and the course is challenging and educational. We designed it to appeal to all ages and the entire family can enjoy playing it together. Each hole has built-in surprises that incorporate unique obstacles, sound, water, and movement.
Can you explain the “Present” room? Who are the three artists represented? How does Christian Césari’s Teepee series tie in with the theme? And the Calder-like mobiles?
Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills serves as the inspiration for all nine holes and supports the museum’s mission: The Mattatuck Museum is a center of art and history, a gathering place that nurtures creativity and learning through transformative experiences to encourage a deeper understanding of ourselves and our heritage.
Beginning with the “Past”, the first three holes feature 1790’s Cooke Homestead and the Daniel Halladay windmill, the Waterbury Button Company and Chase Brass & Copper Company. The “Present” features artists who have a connection to The Matt’s permanent collection – James Daughtery, Ted Martland, and Christian Césari. The “Future” is outside in the courtyard that has a focus on wind energy, icebergs and “The Matt on Mars”.
Christian Césari had created a new work of 5 paintings called “The Three Teepees” before the idea of mini-golf at The Matt and they are being premiered as part of this exhibit. It is of particular interest to see how the paintings reflect many of the elements found in mini-golf. Green tables that look like golf links, bright round shapes that resemble golf balls with plant life shaped like golf clubs.
Ted Martland, a good friend of the museum created mobiles and stabiles inspired by Calder. He was excited about being a part of this interactive exhibit and sadly, he passed away a few weeks before the opening. We are very happy to celebrate the life of an artist that had a great connection with Waterbury and the museum.
Who designed and who fabricated the actual mini-golf structures for the exhibit?
The concept for the entire course was designed by Kevin Mitchael, like any large-scale project it was a collaborative process with the team from the Matt. It could not have been done without their involvement and support. David Machiavelli is an incredible talent that works at The Matt. He is an amazing artist and he created the huge brass buttons, the Dougherty obstacles and the Calder inspired stabile and stegosaurus. Kevin built and curated most of the other obstacles.
What part of the process did you enjoy the most?
I always enjoy the beginning and end of any project I work on. The beginning is about the possibilities and excitement of creating something new and fun. The end is about finishing on time and how the work will be received.
Today, there are only 21 operating mini-golf courses in Connecticut.
The three mini-golf rooms at the Mattatuck Museum are available for rental parties and events.
The exhibit Mini-Golf at the Matt will be running through
September 2, 2018.
Tee times are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis; no advance reservations.
Last tee time is one hour before close.
10 am – 5 pm Tuesday to Saturday
12 – 5 pm Sunday
Closed on Mondays
144 West Main Street