Thomas Center hosts ‘Exquisite & Extraordinary’ collection

“Artifacts Exquisite & Extraordinary From the Theatre of Mind Collection,” features objects and artifacts from ancient Chinese jade and medieval sheet music to sea shells and meteorites that were collected by Bill Hutchinson.

Courtesy of Randy Batista
Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 1:09 p.m.

Gainesville’s Bill Hutchinson may be best known as a musician, artist and entertainment producer. But he really wanted to be a museum when he grew up, he says, jokingly. And now, he is.


‘Artifacts Exquisite & Extraordinary from the Theatre of Memory Collection’

What: Collection of diverse objects from ancient Chinese jade and pre-Columbian textiles to natural history specimens and meteorites from space, curated by Bill Hutchinson
When: Artwalk reception 7-10 p.m. Friday features music by jazz pianist Frank Sullivan; exhibition continues through Sept. 28
Where: Thomas Center, 302 NE Sixth Ave.
Cost: Free

Beginning Friday at the Thomas Center, those who know Hutchinson by the above avocations can add a few more to the list: collector and, perhaps, inspirer of contemplations. An exhibition culled from Hutchinson’s lifelong collection of unusual objects and rare artifacts opens Friday for a three-month run at the Thomas Center.

The exhibition, titled “Artifacts Exquisite & Extraordinary from the Theatre of Memory Collection,” includes an array of objects and artifacts, everything from ancient Chinese jade, medieval sheet music and century-old letters to fossils, sea shells and meteorites, Hutchinson says. And it was inspired by the old-world tradition of “curiosity cabinets” — vast collections assembled by some of Europe’s wealthiest families that eventually became the world’s first museums.

“The more well-to-do of the European families would have a cabinet meeting; in Europe, the whole room is called a ‘cabinet,’ often with objets d’art, artifacts and things to engender some interesting conversation after dinner with their guests and hopefully spur their kids to learn,” Hutchinson says.

“When these rich houses died, the curiosity cabinets became museums. So it all started in private hands ... and the idea is to bring it back to one where people come in and can get their faces up close and go ‘oh my’ and tell a story well.”

Hutchinson’s collection and the Thomas Center exhibition contains hundreds of objects including “a whole wall of foreign, ancient and contemporary script, a whole wall of music, a whole wall of meteorites, a whole section of scholar stones,” he says. And it grew out of a collection of seashells he assembled to soothe his psyche after serving in the Vietnam War.

“The first thing that I collected was seashells because I could see that there was intelligence in the universe. And I found that if I concentrated on that rather than concentrating on my anger that I was happy rather than bitter.”

He later realized that he had built “a really nice collection of seashells,” he says. “And I found it was as good as museums because I was not constrained by the scientific method; I just collected for beauty and for the comfort that it brought me.”

Now, Hutchinson hopes that his collection will inspire others to indulge similar passions for worthwhile wonderments, whether they be natural or man-made.

“It can be transformative,” he says about such pursuits.

“If you go into the right place at the right time, and there is a collection of things that has been chosen with mind and heart, it can be a transformative experience,” he says. “And that’s kind of what I’m trying to deal in.”

Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at, and follow on Twitter @SceneBillDean.

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