THEMUSEUM mixes sport, culture with ARENA

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As the president and CEO of THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener, David Marskell is always interested in providing the Waterloo Region with a bit of culture.

But Marskell knows that even the richest pieces of art and historical artifacts don’t always drive the bottom line.

His solution? Culture’s traditional antithesis: sport.

“We love to have unexpected intersections at THEMUSEUM,” said Marskell at the opening of THEMUSEUM’s newest exhibition, simply dubbed ARENA.

The president’s not wrong. In the past years, Marskell has brought the works of Andy Warhol to a children’s exhibit and most recently married science, technology and art in RAM: Rethinking Art and Machine.

But those exhibits didn’t always bring in the dough.

So Marskell knew a community rich with hockey history and passionate puck fans might want to see the latest of what his team has conjured up.

“Intersecting sport and culture was something that was driving this and hockey was an obvious one for this market,” said Marskell.

And Marskell knew he’d have to bring out something a little different for this exhibit.

“I think it’s not a secret that if I [titled the exhibit] ‘The Art of Hockey,’ a lot of people might not have come,” said the CEO. “But to be able to have interaction, and there’s history, and they can see cool things and take shots… oh and by the way there’s some art as well, we’re going to bring people here that have never been to a museum or art gallery before.’”

The exhibit is rich with not only paintings by one of the most famous modern Canadian artists, Wanda Koop, but also displays of signed jerseys of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby, the evolution of protective gear worn by NHL players, the official overtime puck from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games’ gold medal game between Canada and the US, a small collectibles store and even a café serving beer, pretzels and hot dogs.

The exhibit even features a signed women’s Golden Hawks jersey from Laurier.

Despite the artifacts, any hockey fan will tell you the sport isn’t always something to be just admired — and Marskell’s got that covered.

Fully equipped with a shooting gallery, a deke-ing contest and even a simulated goalie experience featuring a 65 km/h shot at a window (which is where spectators are supposed to stick their mugs), ARENA becomes more than just an exhibition.

ARENA also features a plethora of Kitchener Rangers history and has a ‘meet-the-team’ day. Marskell compares the Rangers with the Toronto Maple Leafs in terms of the importance of the team to the city’s culture.

“You see them in the media, their outreach programs … they’re sold out every game,” said Marskell. “I mean, we should have an NHL team. We can sustain it.

Mike Farwell, the colour commentator for the Rangers’ broadcasts on 570 News, agreed.

“When you think about the passion this community has for hockey, there is such a rich tradition,” said Farwell. “There are many reasons to be optimistic about the success of this exhibit.”

But mostly, Marskell is looking forward to the different audiences ARENA might attract.

“I’m really excited to see some of the hosers come in here and have a beer in the café and see what they have to say about it,” said the CEO.


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