Arts and Culture

Meet the magic behind Mago's Magic Shoppe this First Friday

Like magic, Mago's Magic Shoppe at 313 West 11th Avenue has suddenly become a must-see in the Golden Triangle, with its mix of magic supplies, oddities and art. We recently chatted with co-owner and resident magician Max Mago about where art fits into the realm of magic, how he got his start in the magic business, and what to expect at the Mago's First Friday event on March 7.

See also: The five best events on Denver's fashion calendar for March

Max Mago and Kris Hipps opened Mago's Shoppe of Oddities and Curios, a business that couples Mago's love of magic with Hipps's adoration of all things abnormal, freaky and just plain odd, in November. "I met Kris when she cast me as a magician in her short film Memphis Psychosis," says Mago (see the fllm here. Mago got his start in magic when he saw an old pachuco swindle people with his street magic and was impressed. "I was about eight years old," he says. "Ever since that moment I had an interest in magic." He eventually started working for the magician, who blurred the lines of what is traditionally accepted as magic. "There is no separation in my opinion between performance art and magic and street magic and street art," says Mago.

In just a few months, the shop has become a meeting place for magicians from around the world. "Magicians are always here, showing each other new tricks," he says. "There are magicians who are on the road and stop here for supplies for one of their gigs. We all hang out and talk for hours. We talk about magic and show each other new tricks."

The shop definitely stretches the definition of magic, and includes Mago's own artwork. "Art is a very magical. Art is huge in magic. That's why I wanted to display some of my paintings here," says Mago, who works in acrylic, oil and papier mache. "We bring items to a community that may not have found them otherwise. Some items look normal but they are magical when placed in the context of this store."

For example, Mago's "Girl to Gorilla" painting is a take on an old carnival act in which a lady would be transformed into a gorilla. "I painted this from my subconscious, but I believe I'd seen this sideshow act when I was a kid," he explains. "Kris remembers it too, as a little girl."

But there's much more to see in the store, thanks to the Museum of Oddities. "I have a hard time keeping this museum filled up," says Hipps, a collector and connoisseur of all things odd -- from steam punk to science fiction -- who creates many of the oddities from rare items found at estate sales and other places. She made ornaments featuring Edgar Allan Poe pictures, for example.

So far, half of the shop's sales have come from oddities, and the other half from magic. "We bring in both audiences. It's a hybrid of things we're both into," says Mago.

And they're also into keeping the personal touch in magic. "It has been a recent trend to close magic shops because of online shopping," Mago explains. "I had a kid stop in who wanted to buy some magic tricks to do for a talent show. I showed him the coin-through-glass-trick. I showed him how to do it well with confidence. That's something you can't get on the internet," says Mago. "Kris and I chose to open the magic shop because lots of magic stores have been closing and we want to offer one-on-one tutorials and training for our clients."

At this week's First Friday event, Mago will perform the trick that got him started in magic. Regular hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m., and closed Monday. You can also visit Mago's Magic Shoppe website or Facebook page.

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Mauricio Octavio Rocha graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in English writing and a minor in cinema studies; He has been writing about fashion and style for Westword since 2012. Rocha also writes songs for his music and art project, VULGAR FEVER.
Contact: Mauricio Rocha