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Kaleidoscopes get a close-up in St. Louis as international expo makes its first visit

The inside of a kaleidoscope shows a swirl of pink, green and blue tessellations
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The view inside of a kaleidoscope on Tuesday at St. Louis Public Radio's headquarters in Grand Center.

You may think of kaleidoscopes as simple tubes with beads that kids play with. But kaleidoscope art is a serious venture.

Scottish scientist David Brewster invented kaleidoscopes in 1816, and 170 years later, the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society was founded to encourage their appreciation. Now, the group’s international expo is headed to St. Louis for the first time.

Listen: Kaleidoscopes get a close-up in St. Louis

Mike and Donna Thibodeau are two members of the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society. The St. Charles couple are kaleidoscope artists and collectors.

“They're two pieces of art in one,” explained Donna Thibodeau. “The outside is often beautiful, and then the inside is just a ‘wow’ thing so much of the time.”

People who visit the kaleidoscope exhibit currently on display at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles can experience that ‘wow’ moment for themselves.

“When people walk through the Foundry Art Centre, if they didn't know they were coming into a kaleidoscope exhibit, they think they're looking at sculpture,” Mike Thibodeau said.

The Thibodeaus helped curate the exhibit in St. Charles. The dozens of kaleidoscopes on display include a necklace version as well as a kaleidoscope that weighs 400 pounds.

Some of those kaleidoscopes will also be on display at the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society’s expo at Westport Plaza later this month. Included in the expo will be the unveiling of works, classes and more.

Related Events

What: Kaleidoscopes, The Art Form
When: Through May 13
Where: Foundry Art Centre, 520 N. Main Center, St. Charles, MO 63301

What: Brewster International Kaleidoscope Expo
When: May 12-15
Where: Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel St. Louis, 191 Westport Plaza, Maryland Heights, MO 63146

Have a question or comment about kaleidoscopes? Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to talk@stlpr.org or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the AirFacebook group, and help inform our coverage.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.