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School of Fine ArtsBallard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
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The University of Connecticut (UConn) is a public research university in the U.S. state of Connecticut. UConn was founded in 1881 and is a Land Grant and Sea Grant college & member of the Space Grant Consortium. The university serves more than 30,000 students on its six campuses, including more than 8,000 graduate students in multiple programs.

“Living Objects: African American Puppetry”, October 25, 2018-April 7, 2019

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The Living Objects: African American Puppetry exhibition at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is an event of national significance focused on an important but often overlooked aspect of American culture: the work of African American puppeteers. Bringing together puppets, performing objects, masks, and media work by over twenty different puppeteers from the late 19th century to the early 2000s, Living Objects: African American Puppetry will redefine our sense of American puppet history. Exhibition co-curator Dr. Paulette Richards writes: “since their arrival in the Americas, African people have animated objects in a rich variety of forms and contexts. Despite the prohibition by slaveholders on the creation of figurative objects reflecting an African-derived worldview, African Americans nevertheless animated objects to represent their experiences and identity.” Living Objects: African American Puppetry, Richards adds, will “highlight the work of contemporary African American artists while contextualizing the evolution of African American object performance.”

Living Objects: African American Puppetry is co-curated by Dr. Paulette Richards and Dr. John Bell. Dr. Paulette Richards is an Atlanta-based teaching artist. She holds a Ph.D. in French Civilization from the University of Virginia and currently serves as a docent at the Center for Puppetry Arts’ Worlds of Puppetry Museum. Dr. John Bell is a theater historian, puppeteer, and Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. He is also an Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut.

The Living Objects: African American Puppetry project also includes workshops, forums, 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. This project is presented as part of 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 sfa.uconn.edu/african-diaspora.

For more information about the Living Objects exhibit and related events, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860-486-8580 or bimp@uconn.edu.

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