African American Puppetry Exhibit Opens at the Ballard

'Living Objects: African American Puppetry' focuses on an often-overlooked aspect of our culture: the work of African American puppeteers.

Dinner Party Guest from 'Food for the Gods' by Nehprii Amenii. Living Objects: African American Puppetry opens October 25 at the Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry.

Living Objects: African American Puppetry focuses on an often-overlooked aspect of our culture: the work of African American puppeteers. Co-curated by Dr. Paulette Richards, an Atlanta-based puppetry teaching artist, and Ballard Institute Director, John Bell, this exhibition which opens on October 25, brings together puppets, performing objects, masks, and video by over twenty different puppeteers from the late 19th century to the early 2000s. The exhibit will feature work by the following artists Nehprii Amenii, Brad Brewer, Ashley Bryan, Edna Bland, Garland Farwell, Susan Fulcher, Cedwan Hooks, Akbar Imhotep, Dirk Joseph, Tarish Pipkins, Papel Machete, and Yolanda Sampson.

“Since their arrival in the Americas,” Dr. Richards writes, “African people have animated objects in a rich variety of forms and contexts to reflect an African-derived worldview and represent their experiences and identity.” Living Objects: African American Puppetry will help redefine our sense of American puppet history.

John Bell remarked, “we are extremely excited that this important element of African American culture and performance will be celebrated and experienced in an exhibition of national importance.”

Visitors can experience two on-campus exhibition openings during the same evening on Thursday, October 25, beginning at 4 p.m. First, at the William Benton Museum of Art with a reception for The Business of Bodies: Ellen Emmet Rand (1875-1941) and the Persuasion of Portraiture, and H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center: Celebrating 50 Years of Service and Activism; the museum exhibition tour continues at the Ballard Institute with the opening reception and free tour of Living Objects at 6:30 p.m. Transportation between venues will be provided.

The Living Objects: African American Puppetry project also includes workshops, forums, and performances from Oct. 2018 through April 2019, including a Living Objects Symposium and Festival at the Ballard Institute Feb. 7-10, 2019, which will bring together scholars, performers, students, and the general public to discuss, watch, contemplate, and enjoy the many different aspects of African American puppetry. The Living Objects online catalog will launch Oct. 25 at The museum exhibition will be on display through Sunday, April 7, 2019.

This project is presented as part of Celebrate the African Diaspora, an initiative organized by the UConn School of Fine Arts which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the UConn African American Cultural Center. Additional exhibits and events are ongoing throughout the 2018-2019 academic year. For more information, visit

For more information about the Living Objects exhibit and related events, or if you require an accommodation to attend a program, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860-486-8580 or