Bluffton: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
March 6 through May 25,
Ernest and Marjorie Cooper Gallery
Illustrations from Bluffton, My
Summers with Buster Keaton by
Step back into local history and the heyday of
vaudeville and Buster Keaton with an exhibition
of original illustrations from the new,
acclaimed graphic novel* Bluffton, My
Summers with Buster Keaton by
Pennsylvania-based artist and Newbery Medal
winner Matt Phelan.
Bluffton tells the story of Henry, a
young boy who befriends the most famous resident
of Muskegon’s Bluffton neighborhood Actors'
Colony. Tucked into the Bluffton neighborhood,
the Colony was a remarkable place in the first
decades of the 20th century. The nation’s
vaudevillians made their summer residence here,
working up fresh material for upcoming seasons
and, more importantly, unwinding and enjoying
Muskegon’s still-incredible lakeshore.
Matt Phelan’s work has quickly garnered critical
acclaim. The School Library Journal
writes, “Phelan’s watercolors are expertly
rendered and soft in focus, but pop at just the
right moments, simultaneously showing the
sleepiness of the town, the glamour of show
business, and the energy of summer.” Kirkus
Reviews states Phelan’s Bluffton
is “thrilling—a spirited, poignant coming-of-age
vignette and an intriguing window into a
little-known chapter in vaudeville history.”
Have fun and enrich your view of the era and
local lore with a special family day, Buster
Keaton film screenings, and an historical
Bluffton walking tour.
This exhibition is underwritten by Harbor Steel
& Supply Corporation. Additional support is
provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and
Cultural Affairs with the National Endowment for
* “a fictional story that is presented in
comic-strip format and presented as a book,”
Thursday, March 6
5:30 pm Reception
7:00 pm Lecture and book signing by Matt Phelan
Enjoy refreshments and meet artist Matt Phelan,
creator of the graphic novel Buster Keaton’s
Bluffton. Free and open to the public
March 8, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Elephant Super Saturday
Free Family Fun Day
Stomp into the MMA for an enormous day of fun
and activities. Free admission and activities
are underwritten by MMA Education Partner Alcoa
10:00 am & 1:00pm
Buster Keaton Films
Old-timey laughs for all ages!
11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Guided Exhibition Tours
Explore Buster Keaton’s Bluffton: A Graphic
Novel by Matt Phelan with a museum docent.
11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Make & Take
Create elephant sized art with a twist.
Thursday, March 13, 12:15 pm
Brown Bag Film
Buster Keaton Documentary
(45 mins.) Buster Keaton is considered one of
the greatest comic actors of all time. This film
tells the story of Keaton’s career and eclectic
life, which included many childhood summers
spent in the Bluffton neighborhood of Muskegon.
Illustrator and author Matt Phelan highlights
those summers in his fictional graphic novel
Bluffton, original illustrations of which
are on display in the Cooper Gallery. Brown Bag
Film admission is free.
Saturday, April 26, 10:00 am &
Bluffton Artist Colony Walking
Join local historian, Ron Pesch as he guides a
walking tour highlighting the homes and hangouts
of the lively group of over 200 vaudevillian
actors that took up summer residence in
Bluffton’s bygone artist colony. You will walk
away with a new appreciation for Buster Keaton
and the showbiz clan that loved Bluffton, which
they considered their true home when not on the
road. The tour begins at the old Bluffton
Elementary School parking lot. Reservations are
not required. In case of rain the walking tours
will take place Sunday, April 27 at 2:00 pm.
Questions: Call 231.720.2587.
Saturday, April 26, 1:00 pm
Buster Keaton Film Festival at
The MMA will showcase three classic Buster
Keaton short films from early 1920s: Cops, One
Week and The Boat in conjunction with the
Museum’s Buster Keaton’s Bluffton exhibition.
All three of the famous silent films are
restored 16mm prints; One Week is a restoration
by David Shepard, the world’s foremost silent
film preservationist. These are the actual film
prints—not DVDs. Era-specific music will
accompany the films. Local historian Ron Pesch
will be on hand to talk about the films, their
connections to Muskegon, and answer questions.
(1922) Buster accidentally gets on the wrong
side of the law, and his attempts to correct his
situation only get him in deeper trouble. This
movie is packed with clever physical gags and
surreal cinematography. The Library of Congress
added Cops to the National Film Registry in
(1920) Two newlyweds start a new life with a
do-it-yourself house in a kit. Things don’t go
quite as well as the instructions directed. Many
of the classic films stunts Keaton became famous
for were first seen in One Week.
(1921) Buster attempts to build a boat (The
Damfino) and launch his family on the high seas.
This 1921 film was directly inspired by Keaton’s
summers on Muskegon Lake.
Free Classroom Books for Educators
Each teacher that visits the exhibition with
their students will receive a copy of
Bluffton for their classroom, while