We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Mitchell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
A few years ago, there was a little girl who came to one of our exhibits (before starting the Museum of Make Believe we travelled our exhibits across the country to other museums). It was her first time at an art exhibit and her parents read her all of the original stories that went with the variety of artwork shown (our exhibits consist of miniatures, paintings, music, short films, and more). Later, her parents told us that she started making up her own stories about the unique characters she read about and saw at the show. It was reactions like these that inspired us to create a permanent museum. In 2019, we officially created our non-profit and started the process to raise the funds for a permanent space…a place like no other, a place for talented people of all kinds to join together and create stories that will entertain the community for years to come. We are dedicated to preserving the timeless art of storytelling within a uniquely creative environment unlike anything guests have seen before. Through entertaining and thought-provoking exhibits that offer a truly magical twist on the idea of seeing contemporary art, our dedicated staff and artists seek to inspire the young and old alike with a warm feeling of something familiar and a reminder of childlike mystery; awakening feelings our guests may have forgotten and are longing to remember.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My husband, Geoff Mitchell, and I started the Museum of Make Believe together and are now fortunate enough to have a wonderful board and a group of artists that we work with. Geoff and I met in high school and collaborated together even in those early years (we actually started an underground literary magazine in high school). I think the thirty-year friendship we have has probably had the biggest impact on who we are today. We just work well together. My background is in the creative writing, so I am the writer of the tales for the Museum and he has the main creative vision. Thinking on it, I really think Geoff’s background has most influenced the Museum. The Deep South’s Gulf Coast where he grew up has a long history of storytelling. On hot summer days, it was common for folks to share local legends, tall tales and ghost stories. He has told me that he recalls listening to his grandmother add her own colorful accounts to a story while talking on the phone. All this narrative fueled his imagination and provided an array of subjects for visual art. What he loves most about making art is that it is his way of carrying on the tradition of storytelling and bringing imaginative tales to life…and that is our goal as a Museum. Stories transport us. After all, stories inspire us to love, to forgive, to be better, and to make our hearts bigger. Essentially, we want to be the kind of Museum where everyone is welcome and can engage with the art around them. By providing unique and meaningful arts programming for all, we will build a lifelong audience for the arts. Part of our core mission is to make the arts accessible and that includes making it affordable as well as diverse and interesting to all members of society. What sets us apart is that we work to weave storytelling, fine art, community and entertainment all together as one. An important part of our mission is to create events and art that appeals to people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves “artsy.” We believe access is crucial. We also believe that these sorts of projects should be all immersive to truly transport guests. That is why even for one-night events, we work to create spaces that surround the audience with art, sound, and lighting effects that touch upon all of the viewer’s senses. Truly, what we want is our audience to be entertained. We want to provide a space where people are surrounded by work that makes them think, that immerses them in a unique setting and that focuses on storytelling. But one of the most important things within that space is that it should be fun! Art shouldn’t feel like a hurdle you have to get over to say you did it, it should be something that you want to experience because it brings you joy in one shape or form. We believe it is crucial to make art entertaining and it often surprises people when they realize how much they learned in the process of just enjoying themselves.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We live in Anaheim, so we are certainly going to spend a day at Disneyland. Disneyland is a great example of an immersive storytelling environment and we are big fans. We would go to the Packing House for lunch. A day at the beach would have to happen, too…most likely with a stop for dinner at the Crystal Cove Shake Shack. We would go to San Diego for a day and take our dog for a walk around Fiesta Island, grab chocolate from Eclipse, dinner at Old Town and time to see the seals in La Jolla. My other two favorite stops in Southern California would be an overnight trip to Ojai, staying the night at the Blue Iguana Inn and making sure to catch the “pink moment” at sunset, ending with dinner at the Ojai Deer Lodge. I would also want to do an overnight at Idyllwild, up the mountain. A must stop is “El Buen Cacao” for more chocolate and a drink at the Idyllwild Brewpub.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Certainly, Geoff Mitchell…without him this wouldn’t even be an idea, much less on the way to fruition…he also makes the majority of the art on display. I also have to thank our Board who believes in the dream. Kelsey Irvin of Kelsey Michaels Fine Art is an incredibly talented artist on our board and is also working to create an “enchanted forest” space in the museum that will immerse guests in a dark forest surrounded by dancing lights. Also, a big thank you to Kathy Couture and Josh Spears who have been a part of the board since the beginning.