Museum of International Folk Art

The Morris Miniature Circus: Return of the Little Big Top

February 10, 2016


After 30 years, the beloved Morris Miniature Circus returns to the Museum of International Folk Art. Built over the course of 40 years by W.J. “Windy” Morris (1904–1978) of Amarillo, Texas, the Morris Miniature Circus is a 3/8”-scale model of a 1920s circus that was acquired by the museum in 1984 and last exhibited in 1986. In 2016, the museum will restore and install the Circus once again. The exhibition opens with a public reception on Sunday, April 3, 2016, 1-4pm.

The Morris Miniature Circus is modeled after a 1920s-1930s “railroad circus,” back in the days when a circus would come to town by rail, set up in a day, perform for a local audience, then pack up and move on to the next venue. Morris fondly remembered the excitement that accompanied the arrival of the circus of his youth—with its steam calliope, horse-drawn circus wagons, and parade of performers and animals—and sought to preserve those memories when he began the Morris Miniature Circus in the 1930s. In a self-printed booklet on his miniature circus, Morris lamented the transition from railroad circus to the modern, mechanized circus that takes place to this day in large arenas: “Much of the glamor or the old circus was rapidly disappearing. In less than ten years, the spectacle had completely transformed…”

Morris completed a preliminary Circus in 15 years, but then continued to work on this labor of love for another two and a half decades, until 1970, far exceeding the scale and complexity he had ever envisioned for it originally. The Circus consists of thousands of pieces, most hand made by Morris through a variety of techniques from woodcarving and painting to clay modeling and moldmaking. Some components he created are mechanized—including a festive horse-drawn street parade—but others were constructed from a more mundane material: the wood from cheese boxes.

Charlene Cerny, Director Emerita of the museum and its current interim director, fondly remembers when the Morris Miniature Circus was last shown, in 1986: “The pure artisanry of this amazing piece, with its tens of thousands of individual pieces, delighted our audiences then, and I am sure it will again. This is an exhibition that will be cherished by families who visit and anyone else who remembers the joy and anticipation that a circus coming to town once brought.”

The return of the Morris Miniature Circus will be accompanied by a range of activities and public programs. The opening reception on Sunday, April 3, 2016, 1-4pm, will feature a parade, aerial performances by Wise Fool, and hands-on activities for kids ages 3 to 103. The exhibition runs through December 31, 2016.

Media Contacts:

Steve Cantrell, PR Manager, 505-476-1144, and Laura Addison, Curator of European & American Folk Art Collections, 505-476-1224,




The Museum of International Folk Art is a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. The mission of the Museum of International Folk Art is to foster understanding of the traditional arts to illuminate human creativity and shape a humane world.” Founded in 1953 by Florence Dibell Bartlett, the museum holds the world’s largest international folk art collection of more than 150,000 objects from six continents and over 150 nations.

The museum’s collections represent a broad range of global artists whose artistic expressions make Santa Fe an international crossroads of culture. For many visitors, fascination with folk art begins upon seeing the whimsical toys and traditional objects within the Girard Collection. For others, the international textiles, ceramics, carvings and other cultural treasures in the Neutrogena Collection provide the allure.  The museum’s historic and contemporary Latino and Hispano folk art collections, spanning the Spanish Colonial period to modern-day New Mexico, reflect how artists respond to their time and place in ways both delightful and sobering. In 2010, the museum opened the Mark Naylor and Dale Gunn Gallery of Conscience, where a series of exhibitions encourage visitors to exchange ideas on complex issues of human rights and social justice.

Over 90,000 national and international visitors visit the Museum International Folk Art every year. Through folk art, the museum encourages all to find a common ground upon which to craft better lives for all. 

Museum exhibitions and programs are supported by donors to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and its Director’s Leadership Fund, Exhibitions Development Fund, and Fund for Museum Education, as well as by the International Folk Art Foundation, also established by museum founder Florence Dibell Bartlett.


ADMISSION: Adult single-museum admission is $6 for New Mexico residents, $9 for out-of-state visitors; Students with I.D. receive a one-dollar discount. Wednesdays: New Mexico resident seniors (60+) with I.D. are free. Sundays: New Mexico residents with I.D. are admitted free. Youth 16 and under and Museum of New Mexico Foundation Members always free.

LOCATION: On Museum Hill, 706 Camino Lejo, off the Old Santa Fe Trail, in Santa Fe New Mexico. Abundant free parking.

HOURS: November through April: Tue – Sun, 10am to 5pm; May through October: daily, 10am to 5pm


Mailing address: P.O. Box 2087, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-2087 / By telephone: 505-476-1200 / By e-mail:

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The Morris Miniature Circus
The Morris Miniature Circus

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