Find the way through a world of mazes

New museum exhibit features wide variety of puzzles and activities

Posted: Thursday, September 21, 2000

In ancient Crete, the monstrous Minotaur roamed the isle's famed labyrinths. In "The Shining," an axe-weilding Jack Nicholson prowled a living outdoor maze fashioned from shrubbery.

In Juneau, the mazes are challenging, but safe and user friendly. In the past, local maze-master Jeff Brown has built large walk-through mazes out of pallets and smaller two-and-three dimensional mazes suitable for finger walking. Now the Alaska State Museum is featuring a new exhibit of Brown's work called "Amazing Mazes: The Puzzling Creations of Jeff Brown."

The public is invited to an opening reception from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Alaska State Museum. Admission is free to the family-oriented event. Brown has built a variety of visual puzzles and will have activities and materials for participants to create small tile mazes.

"The world of mazes is pretty darn fantastic," Brown said. "Sometimes they're puzzling, sometimes they're easy. A lot of time they're just plain meditative."

Brown has built a variety of mazes for the exhibit, which will be on display throughout the winter. One is made from more than 1,000 red-and-white plastic dice, and the maze path is a numerical sequence, 1 to 6, over and over. Another is made of plastic Legos. About a dozen mazes will be displayed.

"Most are 2-by-2 (feet), made of 3/8-inch ceramic tile, the size you could follow with your finger," Brown said. "One is on a 12-inch globe, and there's two small mazes out of wood I call brain balls you hold them in your hand."

He's also built a word search made out of scrabble tiles with the names of 100 Alaskan animals hidden within it.

Brown, who has also published two books of mazes and puzzles, designed and produced a free booklet of mazes and puzzles for participants in Saturday's opening.

A second maze event will be held Oct. 28 at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library. Brown will have puzzles and small mazes as well as a larger walk-through maze.

Brown serves as the program director and music director for KTOO-FM. He also performs as a magician, musician and balloon twister. Creating mazes is not a vocation for Brown, but he would like to built more mazes in public places.

"One of my hopes is to make mazes in places where people have to wait, like airports." He built one that's now installed at the Juneau airport.

Mazes have been designed that are cut into fields of corn, he said.

"That's called a maize," he said.

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