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Much like a vision or dream, the opportunity to be a part of this exciting experience came on sudden, without expectation, and without preconception. And much like a dream, so came Bruce, the dragon installation I designed and built with my stellar creative team.

Joe Pagnan’s Bruce the Dragon installation for Mozart’s Magic Castle.

Joe Pagnan’s Bruce the Dragon installation for Mozart’s Magic Castle.
Come join us at Casa Loma and help cover him with scales!

From the onset, his creation and concept came out of being a child. My team was told to think and act only as a child would think and act regarding him. For example, the first order of business was finding his name, and from that point forward he must always be talked to as if he was a living breathing feeling creature. I feel this love and care still holds true with us, we greet him when we arrive and say goodnight at the end of the night. What excited us was the powerfully creative force children have. I wanted him to be accessible and relatable to them.   Bruce had fallen from stories and folklore all children have touched in someway or other. He materialized out of found products, textures, and items that surround us daily. His structure is based on two main rivers of thought. The first, the origins of my creative career in childhood collecting and building old dinosaur maquettes: those soft wooden puzzles that slatted together. The second river was the origins of theatre and opera. Scenic riggers and stage crews early on were tradesman and often sailors. All rigging used today in the theatrical arts has its base from sailing. With that in mind, Bruce’s torso is created from the architecture of the hull of a ship. With ribbing and skin made of net-like material. These two rivers then fed into the purpose of the installation: to build a dragon!

For the month of December, kids and adults are encouraged to come out to Casa Loma and add to Bruce’s magical jacket. Each scale added brings him closer to life, and by Christmas day we hope to see Bruce covered in scales made from scrap fabrics graciously donated by King Textiles. I encouraged our team to shy away from simple paper-only scales, though the option is there for those too short (because no one is too young for anything) to cut fabric. Arts education is a very important thing for Opera Atelier, and I wanted again to expose the kids to another form of artistry in fabric. Costume designers, stitchers, and cutters have some of the most exciting and important jobs in the industry. How incredible would it be to bring kids into a workshop scenario wherein they get to cut fabric and make into something that it is not, a magical dragon scale. The end result is a beautiful quilt of so many unique ideas and images created by people from all ages and all over the world, who at this very brief moment in time, have come together at Casa Loma for the holidays. Much like the dragon in The Magic Flute, all Bruce really wants are friends, and each scale is a new friend. To date he holds roughly 700 scales.

I think the greatest thing I have taken from this project is my renewed sense of love. So many of the scales, even though we provide a template, have been in the shape of a heart and often they have messages of love and friendship written on them. Isn’t that saying we must be doing something right? I am excited every day to go in and see what new surprises the kids and adults, have for me. Thank you to everyone who has come out and added to this gorgeous tapestry.

Also I would like to send out my special thanks for support and assistance in building Bruce from the ground up. Erica Myers; Eva Kuo; Rob Kempson; Dave Degrow and Theatre Passe-Muraille; Holly Meyer-Dymny; Jeff Jocham; Vivian Meyer; the whole team of Casa Loma, you guys are brill; and of course Opera Atelier for doing this great exhibition.

If you would like to check out any of my past or upcoming work check out www.joepagnan.com.

Be limitless,
Joe Pagnan

Top Banner: Opera Atelier's 25th Anniversary Photo Credit: Bruce Zinger 2010; Artists: Ben Cruchley,Leonie Gagne, Juri Hiraoka, Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, Patrick Lavoie, James Leja, Jennifer Nichols, Jack Rennie, Curtis Sullivan and Magda Vasko; Photographed at St. Lawrence Hall

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