PREVIEW: FestiFools

The Festive, Foolish puppet festival is coming back to Ann Arbor after a two-year quarantine!

It’ll be on Sunday, April 3rd, from 4 pm to 5 pm on State Street – South University Avenue to William Street (Please refer to the map for more information!). This event is led by Mark Tucker, the founder of the FestiFools, and the puppets are created by students at the University of Michigan Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts, a Michigan Learning Community focused on enhancing creativity by practicing arts and creative writing. I personally had the privilege of taking a peek at the puppets from prior events at Alice Lloyd Hall, and they are fantastic! I can’t wait to see them come to life on the streets. It’s not only the puppets – Street performers including students from the University of Michigan and outside U of M will join to add more fun! Please see this link for more info, this link for the official recap for Festifools 2019, and come out to play this Sunday!

REVIEW: LHSP Pop-Up Luminary Parade

Students of Lloyd Hall Scholars Program’s art instructor, Mark Tucker, may theorize from past experience that rain often comes with luminary showcases. This year’s pop-up parade in Grand Rapids proved that theory wrong.

These students are LHSP student assistants and some Ypsilanti high schoolers who devoted the past month to creating luminary puppets: three-dimensional wire sculptures wrapped in papier-mâché with lights strung inside. The theme this year intersected space with sea – Emily Miu’s blowfish comet and Anna Minnebo’s full-body NASA/sea explorer costume were among whales and jellyfish, for examples.

Emily Miu's blowfish/comet luminary in lower right
Emily Miu’s blowfish comet luminary in lower right corner

On Saturday, October 8th, these students and some LHSP alumni (including yours truly) took a trip to Grand Rapids’ Art Prize to enjoy the public art and to create a pop-up parade of these luminaries at sunset around the city’s center. Last year’s debut parade day was rainy, which made for a very small audience and short-lived march. Last Saturday was graciously clear as the students prepared to carry their month’s worth of work around the busy downtown at night. The current LHSP student assistants carried their new puppets and others either carried older works brought along for the ride or drummed on metal and plastic buckets to draw more attention. Being a pop-up parade, nobody other than us from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti knew what this was. As hoped for, this only made for a more intrigued audience.

We marched around the city center as sunlight dissipated, across bridges with lit-up puppets, eccentric drum rhythms, and excited energy. Passersby on foot and in cars looked on in awe (and some confusion), shouting and honking their approval toward us. It went on for about an hour with high energy building and lasting throughout. It was a great opportunity to surprise an artful city with even more art from across the state, making its people smile and wonder what prompted it all.

The next time you’re in Alice Lloyd Residence Hall, take a look in the art studio to see what wild art they’re creating next. Maybe you’ll be the next member of a surprise audience.

Waiting for the sun to set; students getting ready to march
Waiting for the sun to set; students getting ready to march

PREVIEW: Festifools


Ever been walking in downtown Ann Arbor in April and all of a sudden been accosted by a horde of gargantuan, raging puppet heads? That would be FestiFools— unless some other wild force is taking the town that we don’t know about.

“FestiFools is a non-profit production of the STARTProject, a University of Michigan LLoyd Hall Scholars Program initiative.” Several years ago, professor Mark Tucker incorporated the age old idea of puppet theater into his LHSP class “Art in Public Spaces,” in which 20 non-art majors crafted gigantic puppets and took them to the streets of Ann Arbor. Today, other departments of the university and townies of all kinds are invited to work in groups or individually to craft puppets for the parade (specific qualifications for entry enumerated on the website). Now, the community event has an affiliation with the city of Ann Arbor beyond the boundaries of the university.

Inspired by Italy’s Carnevale di Viareggio,the parade makes political and social commentary through the use of puppetry. According to their creed, “FestiFools brings students and community volunteers together to create unique public art that is free and accessible to everyone. Specifically, we make huge-mongous papier-mâché puppets and march them around downtown Ann Arbor on a Sunday early in April.”

Last year was FestiFool’s sixth year running, but it was the first year they included FoolMoon. Puppets take the street by moonlight. In Keeping with LSA’s Winter 2012 theme semester, the theme of this year’s FullMoon parade is “Language.” Every Sunday for the past month, build-your-own Luminary workshops have been taking place at Workantile on Main St in preparation for the midnight promenade. On Sunday March, 25th, the UMMA held a workshop as well. There are instructions on how to make a luminary as well as info on the closest spots to town to buy a kit- if you feel inspired to get crafty- on the Festifools website.

Don’t miss this whimsical, comical, fantasmic parade of art and joy that is unique to Ann Arbor.

Click here to get to the Festifools YouTube channel and watch some funky videos from last year’s parade.

And check out the FestiFools website for more information, and some light comedy. They’ve got a pretty decent sense of humor.