Westmoreland museum welcomes 32-foot-long maze

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ToonSeum's Joe Wos was always destined to make great strides in the art world, and he thanks his parents for allowing him to follow his dream.

According to Mr. Wos, instead of discouraging him after catching him writing on a wall with a crayon, his parents encouraged and supported his talent.

He would go on to start drawing professionally at 14 and over the years become nationally recognized for his artwork.

Twelve years ago, Mr. Wos was invited to perform at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif. The late Mr. Schulz was the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip.

Earlier this month what Mr. Wos considers his "biggest achievement" was put on display at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art new @rt 30 Pop-Up Exhibition on Route 30, Unity.

Mr. Wos, 42, has created the "World's Largest Hand-Drawn Maze" for the Guinness World Records.

Raised in Braddock, Mr. Wos, who now lives in Penn Hills, said he dedicated the 4-foot-high by 32-foot-long maze that he drew on the durable nontear material Tyvek, which is used to wrap houses, to his father, who recently died of cancer.

"I always loved doing mazes," and his father always had an interest in them as well, he said.

According to Mr. Wos, it took approximately 40 hours stretched over about four months to create the piece that has 1,000 dead ends and 60 illustrations. He said the lines in all would probably stretch a mile.

Mr. Wos said he used only Sharpie markers to make the maze, which is the only version of the piece -- there were no rough drafts.

"It was drawn directly as we go," he said.

The maze, whose presenting sponsor is Pittsburgh-based video game company Schell Games, features intricate cartoon illustrations that include a random mix of comical characters, from a hippo on a bicycle, to StarKist's character Charlie the Tuna. StarKist is one of several sponsors who stepped up to support the project.

Other illustrations were borne out of suggestions to Mr. Wos, such as the train that has a number "5" on it. He said his inspiration for this illustration was from a 5-year-old boy named Adams who liked trains.

Meanwhile, the illustration of a shark came from a man whom he had met during "Shark Week" last year while working on the maze at Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore.

Founder and executive director of the ToonSeum, located at 945 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, Mr. Wos has made his maze interactive. Visitors can try to figure out the maze by writing on a sheet of acetate with dry erase markers. The markings are then wiped off and the maze is clear for the next person.

While the maze was no easy feat, Mr. Wos said it was more difficult to get it admitted into the Guinness World Records. He said there is not an art category in the book, so he had to submit a proposal to Guinness for consideration.

Mr. Wos had already done a maze for Ripley's Believe It or Not. That piece, which measured 4 feet by 8 feet, was last on display in Japan, he said.

"This one definitely beats out Ripley's," he commented.

Mr. Wos said he will continue to make mazes because he finds them to be a meditative exercise.

The artist assures people that the maze can be completed. In fact, Mr. Wos said there's a team of people who will attest to it.

"They worked long and hard, but they did solve it," he laughed.

The world's largest maze will be on display at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art through Sunday. It will then be sent to Markiezenhof -- spotprentenmuseum Bergen Op Zoom, a museum of cartoon art in the Netherlands.

The exhibition at @rt 30 also features artists Brian McCall and Ryan Taylor, whose whimsical works are complimented by Mr. Wos's cartoon take on maze art.

Christie Black, museum director of marketing and public relations, said Mr. Wos was invited to exhibit the maze after the museum had a call for pop-up artists.

"We're trying new exhibitions and events to see what we want to carry to the new museum," she explained.

The museum began construction on its new $38 million expansion project last month. The newly renovated and expanded museum, located in the heart of Greensburg, is expected to open in the spring of 2015.


Linda Metz, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com. First Published August 29, 2013 4:00 AM


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