The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will celebrate the rich world of African American puppetry in the United States with a four-day series of performances, presentations, discussions, film screenings, and workshops on Feb. 7 to 10, 2019 in Hartford and Storrs.
Exhibition co-curator Paulette Richards, a teaching artist and Fulbright Scholar, writes that “since their arrival in the Americas, African people have animated objects in a rich variety of forms and contexts, animating objects to represent their experiences and identity.” The Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium will highlight such work by contemporary African American artists, while also contextualizing the evolution of African American object performance.
Activities for the Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium will take place in various venues on UConn’s Storrs campus Feb. 8 to 10, with related festival events at the Hartford Public Library on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 and at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. Living Objects Festival performance events are open to the public; Living Objects Symposium events, featuring scholars and artists in discussion, are limited to those registered for the symposium sessions.
Artists and puppeteers performing in the festival and symposium include Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins, Megan Piphus, Nehprii Amenii, Schroeder Cherry, David Liebe Hart, Dirk Joseph, Pandora Gastelum, Brad Brewer, Gabrielle Civil, Bruce Cannon, Nate Puppets, Yolanda Sampson, Edna Bland, and Paulette Richards.
Public performances at UConn include:
Throwing Voice: African American Ventriloquism
Friday, Feb. 8
8-9:30 p.m. at UConn’s Doris & Simon Konover Auditorium
Performances by ventriloquists Megan Piphus, David Liebe Hart, and Nate Puppets. Recommended for ages 13 and above.
Harlem River Drive by Bruce Cannon
Saturday, Feb. 9
4-5 p.m. at UConn’s von der Mehden Recital Hall
Marionette performance for family audiences celebrating the history and diversity of the world’s most famous black community.
Double Selves: African American Puppets and Puppeteers
Saturday, Feb. 9
8:30 – 10 p.m. at UConn’s von der Mehden Recital Hall
Featuring A Conversation with Frederick Douglass by Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins, The City that Care Forgot by Pandora Gastelum of The Mudlark Puppeteers, Curled by Isaac Bloodworth, Lovely Day by Brad Brewer, and For the Love of Cats and Dogs by Dirk Joseph and String Theory Theater. Recommended for ages 13 and above.
Sunday, Feb. 10
9:30-10:30 a.m. at UConn’s von der Mehden Recital Hall
Featuring The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Edna Bland, and The Agape Love Train by Rev. Yolanda Sampson.
The following Living Objects events in Hartford are free and open to the public.
Puppetry and African American History: Tarish Pipkins and Pandora Gastelum
Thursday, Feb. 7
4-5:30 p.m. at the Center for Contemporary Culture, Hartford Public Library
Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins performing A Conversation with Frederick Douglass; and Pandora Gastelum of The Mudlark Puppeteers performing The City that Care Forgot. This free event is sponsored by UConn Hartford, Hartford Public Library, and Judith M. Zachs and the Zachs Family Foundation.
Wadsworth Atheneum Second Saturdays for Families
Saturday, Feb. 9
10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Amistad Center for Art and Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Performances of How the Sun Came to the Sky by Schroeder Cherry; and Paulette Richards’ “STEAM through Puppetry” workshop, led by UConn Puppet Arts students. This event is sponsored by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Amistad Center for Art and Culture.
These events are part of the current Ballard Institute exhibition Living Objects: African American Puppetry, which for the first time brings together historical and contemporary puppets, masks, and performing objects by African American artists and puppeteers. Many of the exhibition’s contributors, as well as performers and scholars from around the United States, will come together at the festival and symposium to celebrate the past, present, and future of African American puppetry.
“A ground-breaking, must-see exhibit… The artistry and diversity in this exhibit are sure to spark many future creative fires.” — Jacqueline Wade, Puppetry Journal
“The exhibit combines whimsy and pointed social critique…This is work that challenges cultural erasure.” — Debra Cash, The Arts Fuse
“Living Objects is a tour-de-force exhibit that demonstrates how the entire cosmos of contemporary American puppetry can be found in the hands of African American puppeteers. Curated with care, expertise, and considerable community involvement, it is a moving affirmation of Black artistry and a major disruption of Eurocentrism in our field. The characters and animated objects on display evoke cultural splendor, technical complexity, aesthetic diversity, and narrative power. It should be required viewing for anyone interested in puppetry, visual, or performing arts.” — Roxanna Myhrum, Artistic Director, Puppet Showplace Theater
Tickets for individual performances can be purchased in advance at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, by calling 860-486-8580, or online at bimp.ticketleap.com. Tickets may also be purchased on the day of performance at the venues listed starting an hour before showtime. For address and parking information for von der Mehden Recital Hall, visit vdm.uconn.edu/plan-your-visit/directions-parking/. For address and parking information for the Doris & Simon Konover Auditorium, visit thedoddcenter.uconn.edu/contact/. Registration is required to attend Living Objects Symposium events, which will take place Friday through Sunday at UConn’s Storrs campus. For a full schedule of festival and symposium events and to register, please visit bimp-exhibitions.org/livingobjects/festival.
Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium sponsors include: Judith M. Zachs and the Zachs Family Foundation, UConn School of Fine Arts, University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, UConn Africana Studies Institute, the H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center of the University of Connecticut, UConn Hartford, Hartford Public Library, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the Amistad Center for Art and Culture, and Maryland Institute College of Art.