Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry opens season with two new exhibits

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Mon., Apr. 1, 2013
Lindsay Simon, an art history graduate student at UConn, leads visitors on a tour of the new exhibit at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. Simon is one of the curators for the exhibit. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Lindsay Simon, an art history graduate student at UConn, leads visitors on a tour of the new exhibit at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. Simon is one of the curators for the exhibit. Photos by Melanie Savage.

On a beautiful, breezy, early-spring day on March 30, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry celebrated the grand opening of its newest exhibitions: "Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers" and "Strings, Rods, and Robots: Recent Acquisitions." As is tradition, visitors gathered outside for a brief presentation and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to start the day’s events.

Joining Museum Director John Bell were graduate students Seth Shaffer and Lindsay Simon, and Brid Grant, UConn’s Dean of the School of Fine Arts. Grant came to UConn last spring from Ireland, where she served as the dean and director of the Dublin Institute of Technology’s College of Arts and Tourism. Shaffer, a Puppet Arts MFA student, was scheduled to lead a forum talk about Dick Myers. Simon, a graduate student in art history, curated the "Strings, Rods and Robots" exhibit.

Grant announced some upcoming changes for the puppetry program, including a move for the museum to a new Storrs downtown location in the fall. The move would offer the museum “more visibility” in the “heart of the university,” she said. Grant said that the program is currently in the process of hiring a new assistant professor to specialize in performances and directing, and that Bell’s position at the institute would be upgraded from part- to full-time. Grant said that the program had recently received $100,000 from Jane Henson, former wife of famed puppeteer Jim Henson, for the purpose of providing scholarships to students in puppetry.

After the ribbon-cutting, guests headed inside, where they were treated to guided tours by curators Shaffer and Simon. “Exceptional and Uncommon” is the first-ever exhibit devoted exclusively to Dick Myers, according to the museum. Myers’ “one-man shows excited audiences around the world in the mid-20th century,” according to the Institute website. The exhibit features Myers’ designs for “Dick Whittington’s Cat” (1966), “Cinderella” (1968), “Beauty and the Beast” (1972), “Simple Simon” (1976) and “Divertissement” (1978), as well as backstage views of Myers’ designs.

The “Strings, Rods, and Robots” exhibit “juxtaposes ancient puppet traditions with Modernist interpretations, with objects ranging from Vietnamese water puppets, Persian ritual rod puppets and Javanese shadow puppets to 1930s Alabama marionettes, department store automata by Ellen Rixford, a lifesize robotic marionette by French media artist Zaven Paré, traditional Egyptian shadow puppets, a Dada-inspired marionette by Australian artist Sally Smart and a stunning array of global puppet forms collected by John E. and Marilyn O’Connor Miller,” according to the site.

The Ballard Museum is open to the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. For more information, go to http://bimp.uconn.edu/.


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