Schiele explores life below ground

By Tori Hamby

GASTONIA – While Charlotte-area spelunkers can travel to the N.C. mountains to explore caverns, those wanting some underground adventure closer to home can head over The Schiele Museum. 

CAVES, the museum’s newest exhibit, which opened June 18 and will remain until Dec. 31, takes visitors deep into a series of winding, subterranean caves where they will come face-to-face with bats, rattlesnakes and a feisty pair of baby bobcats. 

According to project manager Tony Pasour, museum staff recycled wood and other materials from its last featured exhibit, Pirates, to create the 260-foot cavern. The crew spent six months creating the rippled cave walls using spray foam insulation–. 

“When you go into a cave, there are so many crevices and twists and turns,” Pasour said. “That’s what makes so many people uneasy about going into caves. It’s a very claustrophobic feeling.” 

The museum began featuring its own exhibits in 1998 when it developed “Journey Into the Piedmont Past.” The museum saves money by developing temporary exhibits instead of renting traveling exhibits for as much as $100,000, Pasour said. The CAVES exhibit cost the museum about $45,000 to build. 

“We can decide what we want to do and what we want to build. We can build the content to fit our space,” Pasour said.

The cave is filled with at least 28 types of rocks and minerals and more than 40 live animals, including bats, trout, a screech owl, raccoon, snakes and bobcats. 

The male and female bobcats, about 8 weeks old when the exhibit opened in June, have become a highlight for museum visitors and staff alike. 

“We got them a couple weeks ago, and everyone here instantly fell in love,” Schiele marketing coordinator Amy Ballard said. “They will be here until December, so people who come to the museum regularly will get to see them grow up.”

In addition to the exhibit, The Schiele has planned many CAVE extras like special spelunker cave tours, cave movie Mondays, Bat Day on Aug. 6, and other camps and workshops. 

The Schiele Museum, located at 1500 E. Garrison Blvd, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Members are admitted free, and general admission for non-city residents is $7 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Visit www.schiele for more information or call the museum at 704-866-6908.  q

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