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Gift shop touts treasures from Spain

By By Nell Luter Floyd/Special to The Star
July 31, 2001
JACKSON A map outside Peggy Mitchell's office highlights her travels across Spain, selecting arts and crafts for the gift shop at The Majesty of Spain.
The map shows the regions where various arts and crafts, from fans to folk art and silver jewelry to shawls, originated.
Every item in the shop was selected to complement the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 3 here at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion, said Mitchell, gift shop manager.
The exhibit features 14 galleries with treasures from the Prado Museum of Art in Madrid and seven royal residences. Jackson is the only venue for the exhibit that has gained international attention.
Mitchell and her daughter, Jane Mitchell Hassan, spent September 2000 in Spain, touring tile and ceramic factories, watching woodworkers and searching for handmade items.
Ninety percent of items in the sales gallery are imported from Spain, Mitchell said. The other 10 percent are made in Mississippi and feature the exhibit logo, a lion with its paw on the globe.
The idea of showcasing what Spain has to offer is apparent when one exits the exhibit and enters the shop's glass doors.
Two walls are filled with cookbooks, coffee table books and children's books with Spanish themes. There are also catalogs for The Majesty of Spain and from previous exhibits, Palaces of St. Petersburg and Splendors of Versailles.
Also available: a specially-produced video of The Majesty of Spain, narrated by Gene Edwards of WAPT-Channel 16. He narrates the orientation film one views prior to entering the exhibit.
Whether one seeks more information about the exhibit or simply wants to take home a souvenir, there's something to fill the bill.
The least expensive item for sale is a pencil with the exhibit logo for 75 cents; the most expensive, a tapestry that shows a painting by Francisco Goya and sells for $41,000.
Visitors new to the South seem taken with blue mugs with the greeting, "Buenos dias, y'all," Mitchell said.
For anyone who'd like to wear a reminder of their visit, the shop offers cases of possibilities. They include 18-karat gold crosses with lapis lazuli and turquoise designs in the style of the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, handmade jewelry that features dainty porcelain red roses or pink lilies and filigree crosses decorated with marcasites and garnets.
Like to celebrate the exhibit with food? Spanish olives, olive oil and imported cookies, chocolates and tea biscuits make it easy.
Want something that without a doubt brings Spain to mind? Consider a pair of castanets, a fan with an intricate cutout design, a piece of blue-and-gold hand painted porcelain, a rose-printed shawl similar to one Spain's Queen Sophia wore during her recent visit to the United States or a doll dressed in a red flamenco costume.
Jack L. Kyle, executive director of the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange, the exhibit sponsor, said sales in the gift shop have been strong, especially of the exhibit catalog.
So far, 255,000 tickets to the exhibit have been sold, he said. "Our break-even goal is 326,000," he said. "We need to break even. We're very excited about the exhibition. Our exit poll surveys indicate that visitors on a scale from 1 to 10 are giving us a consistent 9.3 rating with 10 being good and 1 being bad.
Exhibit hours are 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, with the last tour at 8 p.m. daily. Tickets are $15 for adults; $14 for seniors 60 and older; $10 for college/university students with I.D. and $5 for children/youth (infants-age 18). Tickets are issued for a specific date and time and each includes an audio tour.
Tickets may be obtained by phoning Ticketmaster at 1-877-709-2639.