Colorado Springs, Colorado
We think Magic Town is performing a little marketing sleight-of-hand about itself. In the Pike's Peak/Colorado Springs region, tourists see its color brochure alongside those of other area attractions -- Cave of the Winds, Santa's Workshop, Indian Cliff Dwellings -- and could mistake it for a full-blown tourist destination. Perhaps it's a peek into the fascinating world of magicians, or a fantasy adventure to tickle the imaginations of children?
Well, no, not exactly.
It's essentially a store selling the theatrical sculptures of artist Michael Garman, a la Ron Lee, or not nearly Sam Butcher. Garman is a prolific 60-something artist who specializes in "intricately detailed miniature sculptures of white trash Americans." Sounds good to us. His "famous theatrical sculpture comes to life before your very eyes through hi-tech video projection and stage illusion techniques."
Mesmerized as usual by what a brochure promises (or what we hallucinated it was promising), we arrive at Magic Town, a storefront gallery in historic Old Colorado City district of Colorado Springs. In the front gallery, Garman's collection and commerce is intermixed; some of his miniature character sculptures are displayed in permanent dioramas, while others are available for immediate purchase. Garman fans are examining and buying stuff, much like any tourist gift shop.
For a few bucks, you can enter under the Magic Town neon sign into the darkened back room of the gallery. This is the core of Magic Town -- a couple of miniature city blocks, 1:6 scale, populated by his populist figures -- humorous depictions of working folks and street denizens (colorfully flawed perhaps, but we didn't spot any meth freaks or serial killers). The time period depicted is mid- and later-20th century (or towns that never escaped that era); the 1939 movies Casablanca and Stagecoach are advertised at the miniature Crown Theater. The buildings are very detailed, down to the Visa/MasterCard advertisments on the store windows.
Mirrors and lights regularly cycle through Garman-designed illusions. A brick wall smoothly dissolves away into an alley. In a few spots, the artist has injected tiny versions of himself and others, holographically, into the scenes.
Garman is mentioned on page 272 of Colin Powells book, My American Journey. In the outer gallery, an open edition of the book with the sentence highlighted is on a shelf next to sculptures of policemen helping children and fireman raising an American flag, like the marines on Mt. Suribachi. A video interview of Gorman plays on a monitor, and we catch the line: "I know exactly what Im doing, but I don't know what I'm doing."
The place has obvious appeal to Garman collectibles fans; others should budget about a half hour for a visit and check out the back room miniatures.
Note: Garman plans to update the sculptures in Magic Town. He is affiliated with another Magic Town in Frankenmuth, MI. His Magic Town in Gettysburg, PA appears to have closed.