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World on a String: Global Puppetry

Puppetry 2

Puppetry, the theater of manipulated objects, is an ancient art form which has roots in virtually every global culture and weds the visual, performing, and literary arts to anthropological, cultural, and social significance. Puppeteers bring static objects to life, animating and transforming bits of wood, leather, cloth, glass, or plastic into seemingly living, breathing beings that have exorcised demons, perpetuated myths and legends, disseminated religious and social values, entertained generations, and celebrated the human condition.

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In the U.S., puppetry has often been perceived as children’s entertainment; its educational and instructive uses are well known through the lessons of television shows. In global cultures, however, puppetry’s roots extend well beyond children’s entertainment, and this exhibition introduces audiences to puppetry’s multifaceted roles in cultural history. For example, puppetry has long been used to enact religious tales and mythological events. Its roots lie in Asia where early documentation may be found in the Mahabharata, a Hindu epic dating to the 10th century BCE. Puppetry made early shamanistic appearances in China and is still a form of celebration at major life cycle rituals (such as marriages and births) in Indonesian cultures. Additionally, in select African societies, puppetry was used to celebrate the occasion when boys become men.

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This exhibition represents a small survey of puppetry from around the world. The puppets represent the global scope of the Center for Puppetry Arts’ museum collection.

Opened to the public on September 23, 1978, The Center for Puppetry Arts was the first puppetry center in the United States, and today it is the largest American organization solely dedicated to the art of puppet theater. Throughout the years, the Center has been a leading voice in the field, and has hosted numerous conferences and festivals. In addition, the Center has been recognized both nationally and internationally as an organization for excellence. The Ford Foundation recently selected the Center as one of only 28 national organizations to be recognized for success in management and innovative programs. The prestigious Kresge Foundation awarded the Center three different grants to support its capital campaigns. The Center was also the only theater group chosen by the 1996 Olympics to participate in all four years of its arts festival program, garnering recognition from Newsweek as "one of the most exciting companies in American theater."

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This exhibition is presented by the City of Atlanta’s Department of Aviation and will be showcased in the T Gallery display cases through October 2012, located adjacent to the new Terminal South security checkpoint along the main corridor. For more information about this exhibit or the Airport’s Art Program, contact 404.382.2478.