Tompkins County
Magical Arts Collective

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What is TCMAC?

The Tompkins County Magical Arts Collective (TCMAC) is a group led by Matt Jarman to provide the training, resources, and social support needed for local youth to explore the art of magic. TCMAC will be starting summer of 2022 and will be a supportive, mixed-age (6-18) community of young magicians in which all local youth – including underprivileged youth – have the opportunity to become skilled magicians and performers. The TCMAC program will be offered to homeschooling families through Communitas’ Self-Directed Education program and to other local youth through after-school and summer programs.

TCMAC will be housed in Communitas ALC. One goal of Communitas ALC is to provide a mixed-age community from which groups focused on particular long-term interests can emerge. We believe the community space, resources, and mixed-age participants found at Communitas ALC will provide the optimal mix of ingredients for these groups to emerge and thrive. 


About Matt

I, Matt Jarman, am getting this group off the ground, so it’s fair to ask what my background is. I have been doing close-up magic since I was 13 and have now been performing professionally for about 25 years. Over the years I have performed at various private parties and corporate events, and even did magic for college students in the classroom for 5 years when I was a psychology professor. I also spent 10 years performing over summers at Club Med resorts around the world where I performed nightly in English, Spanish, and French. For more about my magic and background, visit

I can confidently say that magic has had a bigger impact on my life than any other skill or hobby. Magic has been a high-paying side gig, it’s been a vehicle for meeting and connecting with new people, and it’s been that thing that people remember me for. Through magic, I’ve performed around the world, won international competitions, and worked at private and corporate events of all sizes—and I did all of this while I was still in my teens. Other youth passionate about magic could do the same, which is why I’m so excited to share this art with interested youth. 


The ART of Magic

“The great tragedy of twentieth-century magic, is that magicians have taken an art form that is inherently profound and rendered it trivial” (Max Maven, world-renowned magician). Most people apparently have an uncle that does “magic,” but what these “magic uncles” do are typically silly gags rather than actual magic. Most people wouldn’t characterize their “magic uncle” as a performing artist. I (Matt Jarman) have been a professional magician for 25 years and whenever I tell someone that I’m a magician, I follow it up by saying something like “but not that kind of magician.” So let me say to you, dear reader—I’m not talking about that kind of magic. 


Given the undesirable associations people have with magic, I feel the need to convince you that magic is (or can be) actually a performing art. The fact that many people do it in a way that lacks artistry doesn’t mean magic isn’t an art – it just means there are a lot of people out there doing tricks, not performing art (and I intend no offense to those people – if they enjoy doing it, that’s great). One of the things that makes tricks different from magic as an art is the emotional response it elicits in spectators. Magician Joshua Jay writes, “For magic to be magic, it has to deceive. For magic to be art, a magician has to make you feel an intense emotion” (How Magicians Think, p. 158). Magic is truly unique in its ability to do this. Magic, when done well, challenges our core assumptions about what is possible. This makes it an experience that can generate both wonder and agitation, sometimes in equal amounts. In a world where science is touted as being able to explain everything, magic is one of the few opportunities people have nowadays to experience true wonder.

This intense emotion that arises when people are led to experience the impossible—and all of the various performance and scripting elements that are needed to create the conditions for this emotional response—are what make magic an art. Magic has elements found in other performing arts as well (e.g., storytelling, improvisation, comedy) but magic isn’t an art simply because it shares these attributes. Magic is a unique art in its own right because of the emotional response that can only come from successfully crafting an experience that brings the impossible to life; an experience that feels like real magic.


Magic for Self-Expression & Social Change

Our society, with its plethora of “magic uncles,” has little appreciation for the art of magic. This is a missed opportunity at a time when people are yearning for different ways to express their views and concerns in a way that is heard and remembered. Magic can be one vehicle for this form of self-expression. And I want to help young people to discover and share their voices through magic, particularly when their voices and perspectives are ones that are typically marginalized and ignored in our society. Whether it’s speaking out against systemic racism, gender inequality, climate change, or any of the many other social issues we face, I think magic has huge potential to help spectators to see the world through new eyes. As Oscar Wilde said, “That is the mission of true art – to make us pause and look at a thing a second time.”

How Youth Learn at TCMAC

Magic training and learning occurs in different ways at TCMAC:
Formal magic training (in mechanics, scripting, performance, etc.)
– Self-directed magic discovery (through books, videos, and makerspace)
– Supportive magic community (through regular interactions with others)

Formal Magic Training

The formal training program for young kids and older youth will focus on effect mechanics (e.g., the sleights making the effect possible), delivery (sequencing and presenting the different parts and moves), and patter (i.e., the script that ties it all together). All of these are important elements of how an effect is performed. We’ll also explore storytelling using props, when/how to incorporate humor, and adaptation/improvisation (e.g., when things go in unexpected directions). My goal is to train performing artists. It’s not enough to know fancy moves if you can’t perform the effects in a way that draws people in and evokes that intense emotional response. The importance of this performance element will be clear when we organize magic performances in Tompkins County.

We will have standard magic supplies (e.g., decks of cards, coins, rope) available in the space for youth to experiment with and take home if needed to continue practicing.

Self-Directed Magic Discovery

One key goal of TCMAC is to make it a community that supports self-directed learning and growth in magic; for this to occur, youth must have access to the resources and social support needed to pursue their magic interests. TCMAC incorporates this through our sizable library of magic books and DVDs from my own youth (which I hope to supplement with new books and DVDs using grant funding). I’ll be present and available to help youth work on effects that they come across and are excited about. I’ll also experiment with different ways of leveraging the mixed-age group to facilitate participants learning from each other in their journey to becoming magicians. 

In addition to learning existing tricks, a source of great excitement for some people is to develop new magic effects and experiment with different materials in the process. We’ll have a number of supplies that are conducive to this sort of experimentation such as wood, metal, rope, and rubber bands, and other materials found in our makerspace. We’ll also have the necessary tools (e.g., saws, drills, carving knives, soldering irons) to pursue our creative magic pursuits (in a safe way, with tool supervision when needed). Relatedly, I have recently begun exploring different ways in which objects found in nature (e.g., sticks, rocks, leaves) can be incorporated into magic (e.g., carving wooden magic materials by hand). I’m excited to explore the new possibilities the natural world brings to the art of magic.

Access to learning materials and supplies is one of the biggest barriers to beginning magic (second only to having an experienced magician there to guide you in the process). Having instructional materials, magic supplies, and makerspace tools in a shared community space decreases the need for young magicians to purchase these (often expensive) materials on their own. 

Supportive Magic Community

TCMAC will act as a hub to support the growth of a local community of young magicians. This community-building function—having the opportunity to hang out with and learn from other magicians—is one of the most critical functions TCMAC will serve. By offering programs in different locations (i.e., at Communitas and other organizations), we’ll be able to reach out to more people. I will then organize gatherings that bring all participants together as a single magic community. 

Those participating in the homeschooling SDE program will also benefit from the sense of community found at Communitas ALC. I, and other youth pursuing magic, will refine and practice our art within this community – practicing for others, getting their feedback, and inviting their participation in brainstorming new magic effects. I believe the best way to spread a love for the art of magic is to be frequently seen brainstorming, practicing, and performing magic around others. Communitas will provide an opportunity for this to happen in a natural way during daily activities. 

Want to learn more?

TCMAC will get started as soon as our Summer Program begins at Communitas (see our Program page for more details). We’ve also reached out to other local organizations about offering it as an after-school program at their organizations. These after-school programs will probably begin next Fall. For more information or to ask questions, email