Year In Review: The Myth-ing Link

Year In Review: The Myth-ing Link

Editor’s Note: This time every year, we look back at some of the noteworthy stories of the past 365 days.
 This story originally appeared May 30 in What’s Up!

Kendall Hart is an artist extraordinaire. His work is three-dimensional, beyond life-sized and so detailed, it looks like it could breathe, walk — and perhaps terrorize the countryside. It’s also a good bet you’ve never seen anything like it in a serious museum outside Roswell, N.M., or Point Pleasant, W.Va. But John Burroughs wants to change all that.

“I’ve always had more curiosity and imagination than I may really need,” laughs Burroughs, who is well known to Northwest Arkansas as the former director of the Rogers Historical Museum. But he’s also had the opportunity to do “almost every type of job in museums from collections, exhibit design and fabrication, and education to research and evaluation, fundraising, and administration.” So when he and Hart, a lifelong artist, met while both were working on a museum expansion project, it was a match made in … Valhalla? Camelot? Area 51?

It wasn’t long before Hart had introduced Burroughs to his “Gardens of Myth” traveling companions — life-size sculptures of fantastic beasts — and the idea for a permanent museum was hatched.

“I would love to relate to your readers how the idea came to me in a dream about marble pedestals and bronze-cast sculpture depicting the legends of the world’s imagination,” Hart begins, “but it really came to me on the winds of a Kansas City tornado that chased me home after installing my traveling show for the first time in a botanical garden in 2017. The idea resurfaced a year later in Nashville rush hour traffic during the show’s second season.

“The rigors of travel inspired the idea of a forever home for my art and for the world’s myths. I wanted my own myth museum!”

After a lot of market research, the partners know one thing: They want to build the World Myth Museum in one of two places — in metropolitan St. Louis or in Northwest Arkansas.


Both Burroughs and Hart had very traditional Mid-American childhoods in rural Illinois.

For Burroughs, escape from farm life was anything related to either the American West or World War II — “most people who know me know I’m a huge ‘Gunsmoke’ fan” — but along the way he discovered that “our character as Americans many times comes from legends and the enjoyment we get from them,” not necessarily reality.

“Storytelling was an important part of my family history, so I have an appreciation for sharing experiences. I have always been interested in history, artifacts and museums, so entering the museum field was a natural move for me,” Burroughs says. “I like the process of learning, designing exhibits, inspiring people to want to know more, and connecting with artifacts to create a link between different times or cultures.”

“My journey to myth maker began as a child in the 1980s,” Hart picks up his side of the story. “Wanting to re-create my favorite characters, I experimented with art to the point of playing Frankenstein with my dinosaur figures to make my own toys. Cut the plates off a Stegosaurus, glue them on the back of my T-rex, hide the damage from Mom, and I had my own custom Godzilla toy! The ability to bring whatever I wanted into our world was the magic art held for me.”

Career choices in his hometown were pretty much limited to farmer, truck driver or coal miner, Hart says, but his trajectory beyond that realm was cemented when a teacher introduced him to the artwork of Frank Frazetta.

“Inspired by pulp fantasy and surrealism, but also by the exaggerated realism of Norman Rockwell, I knew it was a career in art for me,” he says. “No matter what.”

In the 1990s, Hart earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio arts, but he “began to worry that none of the big life-size goblin and dragon companies were hiring, plus I saw the emergence of digital technologies in art and design. I wanted to bolster my traditional skills with digital art, so after my studio degree, I began training in graphic software for a stable career in graphic design.

“I got to work with major brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, Asics, Tapout, etc.,” he says, “but my proudest money came from art sales and playing in rock bands — putting something creative out there and being rewarded for it. My life-size Kappa and Troll are among my proudest works.”

“At first glance, my education may seem eclectic, but it all worked well together for my career in the museum field,” Burroughs picks up the story. “I earned a degree in drafting with a focus on architectural design at Kaskaskia College before completing my undergraduate history degree at Eastern Illinois University. Soon after, I attended Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville for my graduate program in public/nonprofit administration and museum studies. I’ve been fortunate to have worked for some great museums during my career including The University Museum (SIUE), the Saint Louis Science Center, the Missouri Civil War Museum and Cedarhurst Center for the Arts.

“My time at the Rogers Historical Museum made an impression on me, and I’m still proud of leading the expansion and opening the Hailey Building,” he adds. “I decided to start consulting after several museums contacted me seeking advice regarding their expansion projects.”

Burroughs was convinced Hart had an idea that could take flight.

“The subject matter is fun, accessible, and interesting, and the success of ‘Gardens of Myth’ gave us the confidence to pursue building a museum,” Burroughs says. “We both brought a great deal to the table with our design experiences, Kendall’s art and creativity, and my museum expansion and administration work. We’ve made incredible progress toward creating this unique museum experience.”

All that said, two questions seem obvious. Why Northwest Arkansas? And are Burroughs and Hart true believers in Mothman, Sasquatch, the Missouri Monster and the Arkansas Gowrow?

Last question first:

“I believe in the possibility of these creatures. I also believe many people are genuine in attempting to explain and understand phenomena they don’t understand. There’s a great deal we still don’t know about our own world,” says Burroughs.

But he sees the museum not as a destination just for true believers in things that go bump in the woods.

“This will be the only museum of its kind in the world to offer a comprehensive exploration of myths and legends,” Burroughs says. “We want to inspire people to understand how culture has defined legends and the process of myth-making and storytelling. We want to inspire people to be curious, and we want to have conversations with our visitors about legends they may have experienced. And we want to inspire people to appreciate all of the stories that attempt to explain the world around us.

“The strength of our exhibits will be in the life-like sculptures that will bring our visitors face to face with legends.”

Hart agrees on all counts.

“To begin, I cannot fully prove they don’t exist without securing a massive grant to research our entire planet thoroughly,” he says. “And I would point out that our fossil record only represents less than 1/10th of 1% of all species that have ever lived. So, I say we are pleasantly resigned to pondering the mystery!

“What I want this museum to bring to people is the universal joy of speaking the language of stories, the wonder of considering the impossible, and the awe of momentarily encountering it.”

And why is Northwest Arkansas one of their top choices for a location?

“I would love to see the museum built in a community that would be proud to be the folklore hub of the world,” Hart says. “We are centering the museum in the middle of America as we expect to be an international destination.”

“We’ve considered feasibility of the museum in several communities and have narrowed our list to Northwest Arkansas and the St. Louis metro area,” Burroughs adds. “Our plans are to establish a presence in one of these communities by first opening in a facility that will provide about 9,000 to 10,000 square feet available for prototyping exhibits and offering educational programming. We are excited about the possibility for the adaptive reuse of a historic building to allow us to continue the design and development of a final concept for a 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot facility on a 10-acre campus with space for exhibits, collections and education.”

“My ideal museum would be of Italianate, Greek Revival, or Gothic architecture,” Hart puts in. “Also, an empty K-Mart will do. The real magic will be on the inside.”



“Northwest Arkansas continues to be at the top of our list as a permanent location,” says John Burroughs of the search for a home for the World Myth Museum. “Our initial investors encourage us in this direction, but we are open to other possibilities depending on sponsorships, incentives and market support for the project.”

Since the story on the museum first appeared in these pages in May 2021, Burroughs and his partner, sculptor extraordinaire Kendall Hart, have continued to take Sasquatch-sized steps toward fruition of their dream.

“We decided this fall to move from our office to a dedicated studio,” Burroughs says. “Our sculptures outgrew the office space ahead of schedule, and our focus shifted to design development and fabricating new exhibits. With such a wide scope and mission as we move into the third phase of our development, we have planned for our traveling exhibits and an increased online presence to reach a much larger community of supporters than would the temporary galleries at our old location. According to our strategic plan, we’ll spend much of next year establishing a presence with our current sculptures and new pieces at special venues and events throughout the Midwest and upper South.

“The Arkansas Gowrow and the Missouri Monster continue to take shape as well as several pieces in the design stage such as the Chupacabra and the Piasa Bird,” he adds. “We develop exhibit content and educational programming in conjunction with each sculpture. The museum has also been answering demand from clients for special sculptures and will produce commissions and exhibits for other entities and partners as we continue our work.”

Burroughs says because the museum is incorporated as an LLC, “we’ve welcomed some initial investors and will cultivate corporate and private sponsors of the project in 2022.” But, he adds, “one of the best ways for people to support the project at this point is to purchase Myth Museum merchandise at our online gift shop by following the ‘shop’ link on our website at Also as part of our strategic plan, we will establish a nonprofit support group in the near future where individuals can donate funds to support our educational outreach mission.”

Find out more about the World Myth Museum at

Email John Burroughs at

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