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Culture

Monsters Invade Chicago

CHICAGO, IL – Fascinating, frightening and strange, the monsters of Greek mythology have inspired authors and artists throughout the centuries, and now come to life in a modern twist at the National Hellenic Museum in Greektown. Presented in a contemporary form with “neo-black style” figures and iconography, the Greek Monsters exhibit opened its doors September 26th, featuring the creations of Beetroot Design Group, an award-winning communication design office and think tank based in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Bold black and red-colored characters based on original illustrations from Beetroot’s book titled “The Misunderstood Monsters of Greek Mythology” characterize the visual style of the Greek Monsters Exhibition.
Celebrating traditional myth through sculptures, paintings, and interactive displays with a modern take on Classical Greek Era art, the Beetroot team has created an engaging setup that is bound to entertain and inform both children and adults, further communicating Greek mythology’s central role in western storytelling. Each monster, including the Cyclops, Minotaur, and Stymphalian Birds, among others, is accompanied by a poem that tells their very own tale.
Aside from its artistic value, the traveling exhibit is also meant to serve as an educational tool for children, introducing them to more than 20 mythological creatures and their stories to teach lessons about racism, discrimination, and other social challenges.
The NHM feature is part of Beetroot’s international tour, which has thus far included stops in Berlin, Serbia, and New York. As part of the journey, a brand new monster and poem are introduced to the exhibit every time it reaches a new major destination. Paying homage to Chicago and representing the “city by the lake” is the addition of the multiple-headed water monster Lernaean Hydra.
Founded by designers Yannis Charalambopoulos, Vagelis Liakos, and Alexis Nikou, Beetroot Design Group has taken on projects for clients like the Onassis Cultural Centre, the Greek Ministry of Tourism, and Nestle. Their Greek Monsters Exhibit went on display for the first time in Greece in 2012 at the Benaki Museum in Athens.
“This is a self-initiated project. This really makes us feel fresh because apart from the jobs we are assigned to by our clientele, we try to generate things on our own as well and this is very rejuvenating for your creativity,” Charalambopoulos said.
Entrance to the National Hellenic Museum, located at 333 S. Halsted Street in Chicago, is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $7 for children. To see more designs by Beetroot, visit beetroot.gr. To learn more about NHM events and exhibits, visit nationalhellenicmuseum.org.
Q & A with Beetroot founder and designer Vagelis Liakos:
*translated from Greek.
TNH: What are the origins of Beetroot and what was your creative intent when you first began?
VL: We were all good friends and started off in 2000 when we all finished school, and we wanted to continue our friendship and have fun. We all somehow studied the same thing…and after we finished college we wanted to start a business without having in mind that it would become a well-established business. Our experience slowly helped us get to where we are today.
TNH: How has Beetroot developed since then?
VL: We are currently comprised of 18 individuals focusing on all aspects of design including graphic design, photography, animation, sound design, installations, and more, and we like to be involved with creative projects. We take on experimental and commercial projects as well as long as we’re allowed to express our originality.
TNH: Where do you get inspiration for your work?
VL: We talk to each other a lot. It’s kind of like a game…a dialogue that results in absurdities. Those absurdities though, when filtered by different people, turn into a code, and that code turns into an image.
TNH: Aside from designing everything, your team also takes part in putting together the display. How does that tie into your work as a whole?
VL: It’s part of the exhibit. The fact that we are here painstakingly drawing and putting the exhibit together for two weeks is part of the overall concept, because if you don’t put work into it then you cannot accomplish and produce something great. It’s also part of our attitude toward the Greeks…meaning…We will overcome these difficult times, we will work on it and it’s okay that we’re hurting, everything will be fine in the end.
TNH: How would you describe the world of graphic design in Greece?
VL: Graphic design in Greece has been improving for the last 10 years…the Internet has helped quite a bit in this. I think this is an exportable good, something Greece can export. Graphic design is popular around the world. I can’t say that we Greeks are the best at it, or the exception – usually we’re the negative exception…we don’t follow the global trends – but in graphic design I think we’re in the game and that’s significant.
TNH: This is your first time visiting Chicago. How do you like it?
VL: It was a dream to visit Chicago. We used to watch basketball on TV when we were little…it’s an exceptional city…everyone is talking about the scary winter that’s coming up but we haven’t seen that weather yet. And people are welcoming and nice here.

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