When you look at the facade of the Russell Theatre, each detail jumps out at you, the ceramic tile encasing the box office, the wrought iron handles of the double doors, all the way up to the urns topping the east and west towers of the buildings.
The only difference between this facade and the real facade of the historic theater is the size of the structure; everything else is replicated exactly, all the way down to the design of the tile floor of the vestibule.
The newest addition to the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center has arrived and is now available for public viewing.
The Russell Theatre miniature joins two other historically significantly buildings to Maysville's downtown: the Cox Building and the Bethel Baptist Church, which once stood on Fourth Street.
Browning commissioned the work to add to the ever-growing collection at the museum and work began in May 2008, by artists Allison Ashby and Steven Jedd, who also created the Cox Building and Bethel Baptist Church.
"It should serve as an inspiration for the community to want to save the building," Browning said, referring to the ongoing efforts of the Rescue the Russell organization to restore the theater, which was built in 1929 by Col. J. Barbour Russell and hosted the 1953 premier of Rosemary Clooney's movie "The Stars are Singing."
The next phase of the project is for Ashby and Jedd to create a miniature which will showcase the interior of the atmospheric theater and will be on display next to the facade miniature.
Ashby referred to the building as a jigsaw puzzle, because each piece is individually crafted and painted before being assembled in its final form.
Taking almost two years to complete, a unique feature of this miniature compared to others in the collection is the fact more than 1,800 of the buildings 11,000 bricks are inscribed with someone's name, making this piece more personal to the community than others.
The purchased bricks line the east and west towers of the theatre facade, with the names turned inward, forming a time capsule of sorts for the community.
In November 2009, during final work on the piece, local citizens could purchase a brick for $1 and inscribe their name, or a family members name on the brick, with proceeds of the fund-raiser going to KGMC and the Rescue the Russell.
"All those good wishes are in that building, it's a good addition," Ashby said of the brick project.
And while it is difficult to see all the fine detailing of the building while standing on East Third Street and looking upward, the 1/12 scale miniature allows visitors to view up close the architectural details that went into the creation of such an elaborate building, which Barbour hoped would be "what the Roxy is to New York."
Jedd and Ashby's work highlights such small details as the six "Comedy and Tragedy" masks; the lions faces which serve as anchors for the chains supporting the familiar green marquee with its heart-shaped Russell Theatre signs at each end; and the orange and blue stripe on the bases of the building's three urns adorning the top pediment of the building.
The couple created their work from pictures of the building, as well as studying it from the street and while only the ceramic tiles encasing the box office are real tiles, the replicas of the building's other terra cotta tile work looks authentic due to as many as eight layers of paint to develop the correct color tones and then coatings of varnish to protect the pieces.
To coincide with the premier of Clooney's movie in 1953, Jedd and Ashby also researched movies of the same time frame so that movie posters are accurately displayed in the display cases located near the box office.
Using archived collections of local newspapers, Jedd said the movie posters created for the Russell Theatre miniature are actual movies that once played to Maysville audiences.
The Kentucky Gateway Museum Center is located at 215 Sutton Street, Maysville; for information contact 606-564-5865; to learn more, go to www.kentuckygatewaymuseumcenter.org.
Contact Marla Toncray at email@example.com or call 606-564-9091, ext. 275.
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