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Squallis Puppeteers celebrates 25 years in Louisville, KY

With all the strings attached.

A mix of handmade puppets surround a fireplace with a white paper mache buffalo head against a pink wall.

The Portland Museum’s Squallis Puppeteers exhibit features memorabilia from the last 25 years.

Photo courtesy of Squallis Puppeteers.

Remember when Colonel Sanders dressed as David Bowie for Halloween?

Well, the puppet masterminds behind that creation and so many more, Squallis Puppeteers, are celebrating their 25th anniversary this month with a commemorative exhibit at the Portland Museum — which will host its grand opening on Sat., Nov. 19 during the Cocktail Party Celebration from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The retrospective exhibition will showcase props, photos, posters, and, of course, puppets chronicling the work of the nonprofit puppeteering group over the last quarter of a century.

Four, nine-foot-tall puppets of a monster, owl, Abraham Lincoln, and Marie Antoinette

Squallis puppets typically stand over nine feet tall.

Photo courtesy of Squallis Puppeteers.

Unlike puppets that usually come to mind, you know the ones with strings, Squallis puppets are often oversized replicas of notable figures created to help tell important community storiesthink Muhammad Ali, Abraham Lincoln, Pablo Picasso + Jane Goodall.

Squallis puppets are also kind of hard to miss, as they typically tower over nine feet tall and are worn by their puppet masters. You might recognize them from Forecastle and most recently, at the My Morning Jacket Halloween show at the KFC Yum! Center.

Each work of puppetry is created at Squallis’ home base in the Highlands Community Ministries building on the corner of Barrett and Breckinridge + are made from repurposed discarded materials using a variety of methods — from sewing to paper mache.

Four nine-foot-tall puppets

Local brewery Against the Grain commissioned Squallis Puppeteers to create versions of its beer characters in 2019.

Photo by Against the Grain

Since being founded by Nora Christensen in 1997, Squallis has visited hundreds of schools serving 25,000+ children across Kentucky with touring shows like “The Other America,” which tells the story of Louisville activist Anne Barden. The group has even traveled to rural China to work with children impacted by the 2008 earthquake.

While the organization is currently reimagining how to better meet the needs of our community, it still stands by its mission, “To use the art of puppetry to free imaginations, to create fantastic characters, and to tell the stories important to the Louisville community.”

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