In the ‘big top arena’ once again

BoxingKangaroo, Morris


Last exhibited in 1986, at the Museum of International Folk Art, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Morris Miniature Circus is a 3/8″-scale model of a 1920s circus, built over the course of 40 years by W.J. “Windy” Morris (1904-1978) of Amarillo, Texas, goes on view Sunday, April 3, 2016.

Modeled after a 1920s-1930s “railroad circus,” back in the days when a circus would come to town by rail, set up in a day, perform for a local audience, then pack up and move on to the next venue, Morris fondly remembered the excitement that accompanied the arrival of the circus of his youth with its steam calliope, horse-drawn circus wagons, and parade of performers and animals.

TigerTamer, Morris


Morris set out to preserve his memories when he began the Morris Miniature Circus in the 1930s. In a self-printed booklet on his miniature circus, he lamented the transition from railroad circus to the modern, mechanized circus that takes place to this day in large arenas: “Much of the glamour or the old circus was rapidly disappearing. In less than ten years, the spectacle had completely transformed…”

In 15 years, Morris completed a preliminary Circus, but then continued to work on the circus for another two and a half decades, until 1970, far exceeding the scale and complexity he had ever envisioned for it originally.

The Circus consists of thousands of pieces, most hand made by Morris through a variety of techniques from woodcarving and painting to clay modeling and mold-making. Some components he created are mechanized, including a festive horse-drawn street parade but others were constructed from a more mundane material: the wood from cheese boxes.

ManOnStilts, Morris circus


The museum’s Interim director Charlene Cerny fondly remembers when the Morris Miniature Circus was last shown, “The pure artisanry of this amazing piece, with its tens of thousands of individual pieces, delighted our audiences then, and I am sure it will again.  This is an exhibition that will be cherished by families who visit and anyone else who remembers the joy and anticipation that a circus coming to town once brought.”

A range of activities and public programs will feature a parade, aerial performances by Wise Fool, and hands-on activities for kids ages 3 to 103. The exhibition runs through December 31, 2016.

For more information, call Laura Addison, Curator of European & American Folk Art Collections at 505.476.1224 or email:

Published by on March 2016. Filed under Archives, At the Museums dept, New Mexico, News (Time related), Palette News Arts Network/PNAN, PaletteBoards Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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