Steps to Stardom Interview: Stratford's Newest Gem

The story of an underdog is one we strive for and admire. Sometimes we might even see ourselves as an underdog, hoping to overcome obstacles that we face on a day-to-day basis. Some of us are lucky enough to break through and surpass our limitations far beyond what we expected to accomplish in the first place. That was the case for Justin Bieber. Surely, you must know his story by now, but if you don’t, here’s a run-through: he was a young boy born and raised in Canada—Stratford, Ontario to be specific—by his single mother Pattie Mallette. With the help of her mother and step-father, she was able to provide for Justin. He showed promising talent from early on and those around him noticed. Fast forward to his competition in Stratford Idol. This allowed him to be noticed by Scooter Braun, his well-known manager. The rest was history! Justin Bieber excelled and was able to gain recognition not only for himself but for his hometown too. Now his hometown is recognizing him.

The Stratford Perth Museum has flourished since its origin. Having started out in 1902 with small museum collections here and there, it wasn’t until 1997 that it was incorporated as a nonprofit addition to the community. Later on, in 2008, they were able to purchase 7 acres of ground for an expansion of the site in order to allow a better representation of their heritage, as well as to accommodate more activities such as weddings and community gatherings. Recently, an exhibit was added honoring the Canadian superstar and recording artist Justin Drew Bieber. The exhibit was made as a collaboration with Justin’s family, his manager, Justin himself and John Kastner, the general manager of the museum.

Her Campus was able to chat with John Kastner, and here’s what he had to say about the opportunity!

HCUPR: What is the full name of the exhibition, and for how long will it be open?

John Kastner: “Steps to Stardom” is the name of the exhibit. This makes reference to his early days as a busker when he performed on the steps of the Avon Theatre in downtown Stratford. The exhibit will be in place until the end of 2018 but quite likely longer. We have made a commitment to review its success in October and make a decision.

HCUPR: Why Justin Bieber? How did this project start?

JK: Well, he is from here, and it was one of the most asked questions we had here. People would come to the museum and say, “It’s great, but we thought there might be something about Justin Bieber.” Last summer, a member of the Canadian Parliament went through the Museum—Peter Van Loan, he is the heritage and culture critic for the Conservative party. He was touring small but successful museums like ours, and he was here with his family. He suggested a Bieber exhibit might be a good idea. That set the thought process in place—last June. We then reached out to his grandparents and him, the company, etc. The support we got from all parties was terrific. His grandparents opened up their home to us, and they had hundreds of items for the exhibit, and we compiled a list and went to work on creating the exhibit.

HCUPR: What does the team behind this think they'll gain for Stratford? How will this contribute to Stratford?

JK: It is a popular exhibit that certainly appeals to a different demographic. Museums everywhere try to be relevant and change with society and expectations, and we think this exhibit does that really well.  Also, it is a great story, and museums tell stories. It has certainly had a positive impact on the community as we have had thousands of visitors to the museum.

HCUPR: How does it feel knowing that people from around the world are interested in this project you guys have probably been working on for a while?

JK: It is a bit overwhelming, to say the least. The first people in line were from Indiana. They were with Facebook friends from Montreal. We had four people here from France. That was all the first day we opened. For us, the best thing is that the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive—people love the exhibit.

HCUPR: We've noticed Justin's family, as well as him, have been involved in the process of this. How was it like being able to work hands-on with them to make this a reality?

JK: Without question, they have been fantastic. His grandparents are here every few days; Pattie was here three or four days leading up to the exhibit opening. I had a brief chat with Justin at a coffee shop, and he was fantastic and appreciative. Also, the company—especially Scooter Braun—has been great to work with, as well as Universal Music and Bravado, the company that handles merchandise.

HCUPR: The items in the exhibit are very reminiscent of Bieber's career. Why these items in particular? Was there any item specifically that you were surprised to see the Bieber family part with?

JK: We tried using items that tell the story of his life, not just his career. So, we have things like a minor hockey jacket, a library card, and track and field ribbons. And then we move up to awards, platinum albums, and Teen Choice awards. I was surprised they let us take the letter from Michelle Obama. Also a pair of underwear off the Ellen Show.

HCUPR: If you could describe this exhibition in just one word, what would it be?

JK: Gratifying. Not just the number of people, but their response to the exhibit. Everyone is so positive and the atmosphere in the exhibit is so great.

The exhibit will definitely be reminiscent of Bieber’s career and might cause a bit of nostalgia for fans of his since the early days. So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to Stratford and hit Justin’s old stomping grounds. You’ll definitely find a wonderful town with enthusiastic people waiting to greet you.

A big thank you to John Kastner for his time. We can’t wait to see the exhibit for ourselves!


Image Credits: 1, 2, 3, 45 & 6.