Student Spotlight: Magician Ian Flinn

By Maggie Buterbaugh

Elm Staff Writer


When people think about magic they usually imagine the fantastic world of Harry Potter or the whimsical characters from their childhood fairy tales. Some may not realize, though, that magic is performed right here at Washington College.

Junior Ian Flinn, majoring in psychology and clinical counseling, has found a way to combine his academics and personal interest in magic. Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold director of the Starr Center, has worked closely with Flinn.

Junior Ian Flynn always seems to have a deck of cards with him to perform his favorite tricks. The junior is currently preparing for his performance and writing a book.
Junior Ian Flynn always seems to have a deck of cards with him to perform his favorite tricks. The junior is currently preparing for his performance and writing a book.

He said,  “I’ve known Ian since he was a first-semester freshman in my GRW course and, rather unexpectedly although very effectively, used magic in an oral presentation to the class about 17th-century Virginia. As this might suggest, he has a creative and unconventional attitude toward both his academic work and his longtime extracurricular interest in magic. I was intrigued when he approached me last fall to say that he wanted to explore that connection more deeply by undertaking an independent study on the history and psychology of magic.”

Flinn is also beginning to write a book, which he said will be titled “Conjuring Curiosity.” This project was inspired by his research and interest in the psychology and history of magic.

In regards to Flinn’s independent study, Goodheart said, “It started becoming clear that the history of magic in America intersects significantly with many of the major themes in our history: religion, the development mass culture, immigration, and race. I’m excited about the project not just for its own sake, but also because this is exactly the kind of creative, out-of-the-box thinking about ‘the American Experience’ that I would like the Starr Center to support.”

Through his research, Flinn gained a new appreciation and perspective. He said, “It’s not all about the trick. Magic lets you find the possible in the seemingly impossible. In the reality of a messed up world, you can find hope in the simple things. It’s a dramatic art form that is based in the spectator’s mind.”

A friend of Flinn’s, junior Marcela Morales said, “Ian is open and willing to share his experiences and knowledge. He is willing to teach and has been known to give people tips and lessons and is also passionate and genuine. His personality isn’t just for show.”

Flinn believes magic can be connected to life lessons and self-esteem. He said,  “Learning magic boosts confidence. Individuals believe in what they can accomplish. The more confident you are, the less you mess up.”

Flinn has performed parlor magic across the country and as a hobby for years. He revealed that his favorite form of magic is card tricks. He said, “I hope that magic is going to be a tool that I use in whatever job I have in the future.”

Flinn said that he isn’t nervous for his performance “Conjuring Curiosity: A Performance of Magic and Time Travel.” His biggest concern is the different environment. He has usually performed in smaller, more intimate settings, so Decker Theatre will be a change for him. He said, “The performance will have a Ted Talk-like feeling. It’s going to be a combination of lecture and visual performance. It’s not a kid’s magic show. It will be focused on more of an intellectual audience. Magic is not about the props. It is about how people experience the different parts of life.”

He explained that as people grow older, they loose their innocence and belief in the impossible and become more realistic. However, he said that within his research he learned that “throughout history the time period did not effect the overall enjoyment of the performance. People are naturally curious. They want to know how something that seems impossible can be achieved. Curiosity is the hook that magicians use when entertaining.”

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