UD exhibit, ‘Juggling for Mary’ is fun for all ages

Entertaining UD exhibit continues through Jan. 27.

Curators at the Marian Library have collaborated with University of Dayton education students to create an entertaining exhibit, that will educate the whole family.

The subject is juggling, what fun! It’s all based on a medieval Christmas story about a Juggler who struggles to find an appropriate gift for the Virgin Mary. When he eventually offers her a juggling performance, the statue of Mary miraculously comes to life and smiles! The tale, says Marian Library director Sarah Burke Cahalan, inspires us to consider our own unique gifts, talents and vocation.

The story of the juggler has been adapted through the centuries in books, operas, ballets and animated films. You’ll see examples of each in this special exhibit, “Juggling for Mary: Vocation, Gifts and Performing for Our Lady.”

For the first time in the history of the prestigious library, one of the galleries has been turned into a children’s area filled with lots of hands-on activities. Youngsters (parents, too!) can juggle bean bags and colorful scarves, watch an animated movie, cozy up to a good book in the reading nook and take an outdoor story walk around the UD campus.

Since the exhibit opened on Nov. 7, additional programming has included juggling demonstrations and student performances, read-alouds by Teacher Education students, visits from local school groups, a juggling history show by David Cain and a performance by Gem City Cirque. Next up is a free world premiere concert entitled “Barnaby’s Gift” slated for Saturday, Jan. 21. The piece is written for soprano, a pianist and – you guessed it! – a juggler!

“It’s been exciting to try something new and to have such a great response,” says Cahalan, who curated the exhibit along with Melanie Fields, Kayla Harris and Eve Wolynes. The colorful graphic design is by Ann Zlotnik.

“This exhibit is an example of how libraries can facilitate connections and create joy,” says Cahalan. “I’ve especially loved the many contributions of the UD community – through student projects and faculty expertise – since all of those elements have made the whole exhibit more impactful and special for the broader Dayton community.”

In addition to the Interactive activities in the Stuart and Mimi Rose Gallery on the library’s first floor, you’ll want to make your way around the library so you can check out all of the display areas including:

  • A manuscript display from renowned children’s author Tomie dePaola.
  • Nativities from the library’s renowned Creche Collection.
  • A beautiful stained glass window, “The Juggler of Notre Dame.”
  • The seventh floor gallery where you’ll find a fascinating display of books and artifacts from the library’s permanent collection, all related to the medieval story of the Juggler. The story has been adapted for film, opera and children’s books. According to the wall text, “the story of Our Lady’s Juggler–who in alternate versions could also be a jester, acrobat, tumbler, or other performer–can be interpreted as the story of a ‘holy fool.’ These figures appear in numerous traditions over the centuries. Typically, holy fools possess gifts that may seem useless or bizarre to general society, but the foolishness is in fact a kind of holiness; the fool is beloved by God.”

The Story Walk

In the entrance to the Rose gallery you’ll see original sketches and illustrations by author/illustrator Tomie dePaola from his children’s picture book “The Clown of God.” Best-known for his “Strega Nona” series, dePaola has produced over 200 works of children’s literature, earning awards ranging from A Caldecott Honor and John Newbery Medal to the Lifetime Children’s Literature Legacy Award from the American Library Association.

UD education students have turned “The Clown of God’' into an interactive walk for the whole family. Walk along the path, read the story page-by-page and respond to the trigger questions along the way.

One of those helping to design the walk was UD student Brynne Kessler, who says she really enjoyed working on the exhibit. “We collaborated with our classmates to make the story walk stations that would engage the students,” she explains. " We asked discussion questions on our posters to further the children’s thinking about the juggler story. These were displayed throughout campus and brought our work to life! "

Here’s an excerpt from the de Paola story followed by the kinds of questions the UD students dreamed up:

“Giovanni became very famous and it wasn’t long before he said good-bye to the traveling troupe and set off on his own. Up and down Italy he traveled, and although his costume became more beautiful, he always kept the face of a clown.”

Questions and activities: “Do you think Giovanni should have left his traveling troupe? Have you ever juggled? If so, what objects did you juggle? Take a bow for the Prince and the Duke! Perform a dance for your friends and have them cheer you on!”

Members of Kessler’s class also had the opportunity to read aloud to children in the circle carpet in the Rose Gallery. “This was a very interesting project because it incorporated numerous components,” she notes. " There was also a writing portion of this project that allowed us to further analyze the novel and connect it to different theories and theorists that we learned in class.”

A juggler in stained glass

Don’t miss the beautiful stained glass window on the first floor. It’s titled “The Juggler of Notre Dame” and thanks to a gift from the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, is now part of the Marian Library’s permanent collection. The lovely window was created by artist Jeffrey Miller in collaboration with his daughter, Sarah Navasse and craftsman Jeremy Bourdois.

Says Miller about the juggler story: “You could say that it is the perfect metaphor for valuing even the humblest virtues in the people around us.”


What: “Juggling for Mary,” a family-friendly exhibit.

Where: The University of Dayton, Marian Library, 300 College Park, Dayton

When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday through January 27. Closed Jan 1-2; Jan. 5; Jan 12; Jan.16; Jan. 19 and Jan 26.

Admission: Free

Parking: If you are visiting on a weekday, a parking pass is required. For a free parking pass, drive through the main campus entrance on Stewart Street just east of Brown Street and follow the signs to visitor parking. Stop at the visitor center, and an attendant will issue a parking pass. The closest entrance to P Lot is the ground floor (Learning Teaching Center) entrance. B Lot is closest to the main entrance of Roesch Library.

RELATED PROGRAMMING: At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, there will be a world premiere concert, “Barnaby’s Gift,” at Sears Recital Hall in the Jesse Philips Humanities Center. The original composition for piano, soprano and juggler is by Scott Gendel, and will be performed by juggler Jerome York, soprano Andrea Chenoweth Wells and pianist John Benjamin. Admission and parking are free.

For more information: https://udayton.edu/marianlibrary/exhibits/christmas-exhibit.php

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