Ford House is simply mad about Alice

Fairytale exhibits take visitors on adventure with Alice in Wonderland

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 18, 2013

 “As It Seems,” one of the images by Maggie Taylor inspired by “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” will be on display June 29 to Sept. 8 in the South Cottage on the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House estate grounds in Grosse Pointe Shores.

“As It Seems,” one of the images by Maggie Taylor inspired by “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” will be on display June 29 to Sept. 8 in the South Cottage on the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House estate grounds in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Photo courtesy of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

Related Stories

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — This summer, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is inviting local residents on an adventurous trip to Wonderland.

For its third annual fairytale art exhibition — something that’s become a summer staple — the Ford House is displaying the quirky, colorful art of Maggie Taylor for “Fairy Tales at Ford House: A Wonderland Experience.” From June 29 — also the date for the Ford House’s annual Fairy Tale Festival — to Sept. 8, the 45 images from Taylor’s book, “Almost Alice: Illustrations of Wonderland,” will be on view at the South Cottage and in the playhouse. This year’s theme is the Lewis Carroll fantasy classic, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

“She takes Victorian photos … and she puts a very contemporary look on top of (them with Photoshop),” explained Ford House communications specialist Sarah Chuby of Taylor’s artwork, which she said is as fantastical as the Alice story itself.

Visitors will enter the cottage from a side door that leads into a library of books “all based on the Alice theme,” explained museum technician Sara Ericson.

“We’re putting up branches to give it a woodsy feel,” she continued.

Visitors of all ages are encouraged to borrow the books to read on the grounds, and Ford House officials especially hope adults will share the stories with their little relatives.

“We’re hoping to make it intergenerational for parents with their children and grandparents with their grandchildren,” curator Josephine Shea said.

In keeping with the book, some of Taylor’s prints are being blown up and others are being shrunk down “to play with size and scale,” Ericson said.

In another room, visitors will have to look through peepholes in doors to see Taylor’s artworks, an idea taken from the hall of doors in Carroll’s book.

“It’s just another way of looking at Maggie Taylor’s artwork,” Ericson said of this more interactive experience.

In yet another room, visitors can solve riddles at a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party table.

Chuby said visitors can feel like they’re “a part of the story” as they explore the various displays.

Although Taylor’s prints aren’t arranged in precise chronological order, Ericson said they grouped them by scene.

“We tried to tell the story through the exhibit as best we could,” she said.

Along with Taylor’s work, visitors can see other interpretations of the classic tale from College for Creative Studies students in another installment of the “Art and Artifact” series at the estate. Susan Aaron Taylor’s interdisciplinary class created fiber, ceramic and illustrated works based on aspects of the story or its characters for “Alice, Art and Artifact.” Participating students include Emily Boyd, of Royal Oak; Alexandria Rabishaw, of Milwaukee; Michelle Perry, of Saginaw; Alejandra Roig, of Royal Oak; Karen Quinn, of Livonia; Alexa Ulbrich, of St. Clair Shores; Andrea Del Rio, of Charlotte, N.C.; and Nabeela Najjar, of Detroit. The eight CCS works will be divided between the playhouse and pool house on the grounds, Shea said.

CCS works include a nightdress for Alice, a series of three aprons in different sizes and a tea set with a flamingo-shaped pot. The playhouse itself will be designed as the White Rabbit’s house, Ericson said.

The Ford family has a direct connection to the Alice character in the form of car ads from the 1940s and 1960s that featured the iconic young heroine, and Chuby said those ads would be blown up and put on view.

“That — along with the past and present reflected in (Taylor’s) prints — we thought would (make for) a fun and visually interesting and educational (experience),” Chuby said. “And Ford House is a wonderland.”

In conjunction with the CCS and Taylor exhibits, Ford House officials have put together a series of special programs, including several Mad Hatter tea parties in July, an outdoor family screening of Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” July 24, and several related arts and craft workshops for children, along with an engraving, letter writing and typography workshop for teens and adults Aug. 3, a photographic transfer class by a CCS instructor Aug. 10, and a look at Wayne State University’s collection of rare children’s books Aug. 15.

The Alice in Wonderland theme this year follows fairytale exhibits that focused on multicultural stories and the tales of the Brothers Grimm.

“We wanted to focus in a bit (this year),” Chuby said.

The Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore, between Vernier and Nine Mile roads. Admission to the exhibits is included with a grounds pass or house tour, and is free to Ford House members. For reservations for special programs or more information, call (313) 884-4222 or visit