Spooky Portaits debuts at Tempe History Museum

Sara Hogendoorn explains how exciting it is to have her ‘Family of flies’ portrait displayed along with her classmates in the Tempe History Museum.

The Tempe History Museum will be running the ‘Spooky Portraits exhibit until Nov. 4. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.


Through the month of October, works by Mesa Community College (MCC) art students will be displayed at the Tempe History Museum.

Starting October 4, the students in ART 270 and 274 classes make three digital photographic images made of vintage photographs, mostly found on the Library of Congress, and transform them as spooky and scary as possible with the help of Photoshop.

“I really liked doing the spooky Photoshop stuff,” said Megan Burke, creator of the killer bride portrait. “I wanted to work with the bride in the first place and I really liked how the bride was behind this guy, I thought that was really creepy and I could work with that. First, I put the skull on her and then I decided that I needed a little more than the skull because that wasn’t creepy enough. I actually fixed [the groom’s] face, so he looked more like ‘oh no.’ I brought down his eyebrows and mouth so he had a frown on his face.”

Burke was not the only one messing around with the vintage faces. Carmen LaPlace , a second-year photography major, was inspired by the old and new “It” movies when deciding what to do for her portrait.

“[The top clown’s] face is actually Tim Curry, from the original movie and [the bottom clown] is from the newest movie. The vintage photograph I found is of P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb. I thought it would be a neat circus theme, and I had just watched the newest ‘It’ movie so I was really creeped out by [clowns] so I thought it would be cool to do the ‘It’ theme,” said LaPlace. “This is also my first exhibit. I have never had work in a museum and I’ve had friends push me towards exhibiting my work so this is a very unique experience for myself to see my works here.”

For many, if not all of the students, this is the first time having their work shown in a gallery and the Tempe History is always happy to have them back. The students will bring family and friends to show off their hard work being displayed in an actual museum.

“It’s all very cool and like nothing I’ve ever expected. It’s really cool seeing everybody else’s too because they are all very different but they fit together very nicely,” said Sara Hogendoorn, creator of the family of flies picture.


Megan Burke describes the mindset behind her portrait. Photo by Alli Cripe/Mesa Legend


Carmen LaPlace with her ‘It’ inspired, circus themed digital work of art at the Tempe History Museum. hoto by Alli Cripe/Mesa Legend


This year is the fourth year the combined classes will be displaying their pictures in the museum. The public and some children seem to enjoy the portraits during the spooky season, seeing as they aren’t too bloody or gory for children.

“We’ll go back to Tom Klare [next year],” said Dan Miller, exhibit curator of the Tempe History Museum. “I’ve noticed the gradual increase of level in the work so [the students] are getting better every year, which is really cool. So, the students are learning or they’re just taking the course twice.”

The class is popular, so much so that according to the instructor Tom Klare, the seats are filled up within the first week. And some students are specifically looking to take the course in the fall semester, if only to make their portrait spooky.

“It’s a very popular project. It’s become a legendary project,” Klare said. “The outcome [of the project] is great. They get to see their work published and on display and it kind of validates their work.”

The Tempe History Museum will be running the ‘Spooky Portraits exhibit until Nov. 4. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is completely free.

Several other works by these students are located in the Art Department at the MCC Southern and Dobson campus.

About Author

Sydney Ritter is the former Managing Editor at the Mesa Legend and a communications major at Arizona State University. She has been working for the Legend since 2016 as a reporter before taking over as News Editor and has spent her last two years as the Managing Editor.

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