Medici Museum Exhibit Includes ‘Starry Night’ Mural Made of Gumballs

HOWLAND, Ohio – An artist known for making murals out of colored gumballs will come to the Medici Museum of Art this week.

Franz Spohn, of Erie, Pa., will bring his solo show, “The Old Dog Learns New Tricks,” to the museum at 9350 E. Market St. He will attend an opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11.

Spohn’s exhibition will include a 13-foot by 9-foot re-creation of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” that was made from 19,603 gumballs.

“His work is really whimsical and fun and very family friendly,” said Katelyn Amendolara-Russo, director of the museum. “It inspires kids to use their imagination, to cultivate their curiosity.”

Spohn made the mural earlier this summer with a group of Trumbull and Mahoning County educators during a visit to the Eastwood Expo Centre.

The mural was on display at Eastwood Mall this week but will be moved to the front gallery of The Medici, where it will be visible to people in passing cars, and also those inside the building. The mural, which is mounted on a giant easel, will remain on view at The Medici through Dec. 8.

A group of Mahoning Valley teachers work to create the “Starry Night” mural by placing colored gumballs into clear tubes. The session took place at Eastwood Event Centre in Niles.

The gumballs were placed in 179 clear plastic tubes in the correct order according to their color. When the tubes are placed next to each other, they reveal the painting in its entirety.

Dozens of teachers took part in making the mural.

“A lot of prep work was involved,” said Amendolara-Russo.

She has known Spohn for years and was happy to connect with him for the exhibition. “We are both educators and are passionate about creative curriculum,” she said.

Spohn has made many such gumball murals, which combine art and mathematics.

“He invented the whole process,” Amendolara-Russo said. “Some of his other works incorporate sprinkles [used on cupcakes] and other candies.”

To create a guide for making each mural, Spohn first creates a pixilated image of the painting, then develops a grid that separates it into vertical rows – revealing how many of each color gumball will be necessary, and the order to drop them into each tube.

This mural of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting was made of gumballs by artist Franz Spohn and a group of Valley educators.

In addition to the “Starry Night” mural, Spohn’s exhibition will include his whimsical drawings, works he created through the printmaking process, and new works in soft pastels and oil paintings.

Spohn is co-producer and host of the PBS instructional series “Eureka! The Creative Art Series,” and has co-hosted the long running PBS series “Hands on Crafts for Kids.”

Spohn earned his master’s degree in printmaking and drawing from The Ohio State University. He is currently retired from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where he taught for 20 years.

Spohn’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in venues including the Museum of Art and Craft in New York; Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada; National Science Museum, London; and Franklin Institute of Science Museum, Philadelphia.

He has illustrated books and book covers for Bantam, Doubleday, Dell publishers, and corporate clients.

Spohn has participated at state and national education conferences (28 years at NAEA) and was keynote speaker at the Ohio Art Educator Association annual conference in 2013. While living in Pittsburgh, Franz was a regular contributor to programs at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.

Pictured at top: Alex Jesko, assistant curator of The Medici Museum; Katelyn Amendolara-Russo, director of the museum; and artist Franz Spohn pause for a photo.

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