art is cheap

inside the art bus

inside the art (is cheap) bus

I’ve wanted to visit Bread and Puppet in Glover, VT since moving here a few years ago. It’s very likely you’ve seen their work without realizing it; the troupe’s oversized puppets are a regular spectacle in local parades (First Night Montpelier, Mardi Gras in Burlington) and they’ve been featured in many movies including Julie Taymor’s 2007 Across the Universe. Remember when the psychedelic party bus takes off on the cross country trip, and then they stop in a field to find “Mr. Kite’s traveling circus” set up there? The music in the scene is from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; the colorful giant King and Queen (and other) puppets are Bread and Puppet.

Today was the annual open house, and I spent the whole afternoon inside the unique, exciting imagination of  B&P. There are outdoor and indoor pageants, spontaneous music played on all combinations of instruments, and a lot of clever humor that manifests in everything from irreverent songs to wacky music interludes to the interplay between all of the characters. The pageant themes are topical and often political, on current events domestic and international. Today’s theme was the economy. Enough said, for a place whose manifesto is is called “Why Cheap Art?”

It’s very special, the whole experience: whimsical and poignant, thought-provoking and hilarious, and ultimately uplifting to spend a few hours in an environment built on little more than creative vision, hard work, and handmade everything.

The experience also inspired a lively discussion on the return trip: what will become of papier-mâché artists like Bread and Puppet, when there IS no more newsprint to make puppets? Don’t want to think about that right now. I’d rather hold on to the good feelings and smiles from this afternoon, and I hope you’ll share that with me by taking a little time to check out the B&P gallery below.

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