Puppet Road Trip

Lately I’ve been busy with the fourth season of Virtual Puppetry Residency, but I’ve also been working on getting my puppets back out into the world. I traveled to Athens, Ohio on April second to perform Puppet Talent Show, a new puppet show and demonstration at the Dairy Barn Art Center. The show is ideal for small children, involves lots of audience interaction and features three types of puppets: rod, marionette and glove puppets. Themes of the act include building self-confidence and encouraging others to celebrate their talents. The puppets include a variety of characters that I made over the past twenty years.

My puppet show at the Dairy Barn is part of a larger project, the group juried exhibition Scribble & Play, Art for Children. The exhibition runs March 19th through April 17th. I have two collections of puppets in the exhibition.

Puppets from Joe Magarac Stories
 
Joe Magarac is an American folk hero from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The myth describes an Eastern European steel worker who could do the work of twenty-nine men. He could work twenty-four hours a day in the steel mill, every day of the year without a break. He could handle and form molten steel with his bare hands. Some even said that he was made of steel!
 
In my puppet show (created with Pittsburgh artist Mike Cuccaro), Joe arrives in America and meets a young newspaper delivery boy, Newsie Ned, who helps him get acquainted with American life. Joe works in the steel mill with Braddock Bob, who loads bags of manganese during the steelmaking process.
Dada Puppets

I created these puppets for a show exploring the Dada art movement and sound poetry. The characters are Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings and Robot. In my fictional spin on the beginnings of Dada (developed with Pittsburgh artist Mike Cuccaro), the characters Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings perform at the historical Cabaret Voltaire in 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland. Emmy dances erratically and Ball performs sound poetry dressed in an outlandish outfit. The nonsense of these actions reflected the aggravation that the artists felt during World War I. In the puppet show, we imagine that Hugo and Emmy are visited by a time traveling robot. The Robot reveals to them both struggles and hope in the future.

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OH+5 at Dairy Barn Art Center

My painting, Puppet Parade, is currently on view in OH+5, Contemporary Art of Our Region at the Dairy Barn Art Center in Athens, Ohio. The show was juried by Quinn Alexandria Hunter, Emily Prentice and Shoji Satake. It includes artists from Ohio and its five bordering states. A wide variety of works representing sculpture, ceramics, fibers, painting, drawing, installation and performance were created by emerging and established artists. It runs through March 13th, 2022. While the show is up, I will have smaller paintings of the characters from Puppet Parade available for purchase in the Dairy Barn Shop.

Here is a Zoom conversation that I participated in with OH+5 artists Lily Erb and Beth Nash, organized by the center’s exhibition director Holly Ittel.

OH+5, 2022 Artist Talks with Tom Sarver, Beth Nash and Lily Erb.
Puppet Parade, Tom Sarver, acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 30″, 2021.

Puppet Parade is part of a series of paintings that I began in July of 2021 as I began to reflect on the Black Sheep Puppet Festival, an international festival of puppetry that I was involved in from 1999 through 2008. The event took place at the Brew House, an artist cooperative on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The venue was formerly part of a massive Duquesne Brewery complex. Artists began moving into the vacant facility to live and work starting in the 1980’s. In 1998, I had recently arrived back to Western Pennsylvania after art school and got a job working at the new Utrecht Art Supply that opened a few blocks from the BH. The neighborhood was buzzing with artists, musicians and lots of creative projects. I was immediately drawn to the work of Industrial Arts Co-Op, artists making large-scale metal and found materials sculptures in a large garage space at the BH. They were also curating wild performance events in their shared studio. I arrived just as they were brainstorming ideas for an edgy, experimental puppetry production.

The first two years of Black Sheep were times of raw creative energy and collaboration from a community of artists determined to go big. The BH gallery exhibited puppets. There were workshops, parades, marathon performance events and rooftop parties. Puppeteers arrived from Chicago, Philadelphia, Australia, New Orleans, New York City and Baltimore. Pittsburgh artists and musicians rounded out the events.

Puppet Parade depicts the moment of spontaneous street spectacle erupting next to the BH after a family puppet making workshop in the gallery space. Children, families, festival performers and people in the neighborhood watched as Knee High Puppeteers (Australia), Environmental Encroachment (Chicago) and others celebrated the art of puppetry.

Detail of Puppet Parade. The audience looks up at a massive android puppet performed by Knee High Puppeteers.
Detail, Puppet Parade.
Detail with Brew House windows. Puppet Parade, 2021.
Snake Puppeteer (8″x8″) and other small paintings are available in the Dairy Barn Shop during the show.

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Studio Show & Sale

A few of the works on view at the Studio Show & Sale, Tom Sarver Studio, Radiant Hall West.

To celebrate my first six months at Radiant Hall West in McKees Rocks, I have transformed my workshop into a gallery. The space is open by appointment. The show will run from December 18, 2021 through January 2, 2022. Works for sale include Pittsburgh drawings, paintings, fish art, and puppets. These works may be purchased (off the wall) or picked up later. An area of works-in-progress is also available for viewing. For more information, please email tomsarver@gmail.com

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Winter Artists Market at PCA&M

I’ll be selling my hand-crafted fish this Saturday, December 11th at the Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media’s Winter Artists Market. The event will feature work from over 25 artists and craftspeople and include ceramics, jewelry, photography painting and more. Vendors will be set up both inside and outside (be prepared for the weather)! The market will be open 10 AM until 5 PM and is located at 1047 Shady Avenue.

I’ll be selling a variety of wooden decorative fish, all inspired by fish species of Pennsylvania. Some are designed for wall display. Some have pedestals for display on a desk, shelf or mantle. I’ll also have some small holiday ornaments.

A few fish that will be available at the sale. Chain pickerel, two creek chubsuckers, two stonecats and a brown bullhead. Acrylic on plywood, Tom Sarver, 2021.
Studio shot of small muskellunge assemble line. Tom Sarver 2021.

Fish Kiosk signage for the Winter Artists Market.

Brook trout, the state fish of Pennsylvania. Acrylic on wood. Tom Sarver, 2021.

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Fish are back!

The past few months have been productive in the studio. I have a new workshop up and running at Radiant Hall Studios in McKees Rocks. More space to work has inspired me to bring back some projects that I had set aside.

One of those is Sarver’s Bait & Tackle. I’ve decided to bring back the project in the form of a retail business to sell painted wooden fish and decorative fishing lures. I’ll be trying out artist markets in the coming year and will have an online shop opening soon.

Black crappie and longnose gar, acrylic on plywood, 2021
40 inch muskellunge, carved wood painted with artist acrylics, 2021
Largemouth bass, acrylic on plywood, 2021
December is the time for steelhead fishing on the Lake Erie tributaries in Pennsylvania. Acrylic on plywood, 2021
Rustic carved trout, 2009
Blue spotted sunfish, pumpkinseed and redear sunfish.

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Nightlife

As part of my Pittsburgh Drawing Project, I occasionally meet with fellow artists for outings. Like the Early Modernists long ago, we often meet at coffee shops and bars to talk and sketch the scene. Here are some results from a recent night in Lawrenceville. Nightlife in the usually bustling neighborhood is still a bit slow (as the pandemic wanes), but we found people enjoying a rooftop breeze on a warm evening.

Scene at the rooftop bar at TRYP Hotel in Lawrenceville. June, 2021.
Bartender. June, 2021.
What’s on tap? June, 2021.

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Opening up.

With a break from the pandemic and life starting to return to normal, I’ve returned to my Pittsburgh Drawing Project. Here are two from a day spent Downtown. The weather was hot and humid, so I tried to find some relief in mist from the fountain at Point State Park.

Bicycle trail passing through the Mon Wharf. View of the Monongahela River, Station Square, Mount Washington and Smithfield Street Bridge. June, 2021.
Quick sketch of a man named Tim at Market Square. Tim was talking about his bicycle, a contraption built from a collection of parts, found objects and various decorations.

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VPR – International Puppet Festival

I’m happy to present the culminating event for my second Virtual Puppetry Residency project. Thirty-one participants from thirteen countries will be showing work in three online events on Saturday, December 12, 2020. For more information, please see the VPR Page of this website.

Pittsburgh City Paper article by Hannah Lynn.

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Virtual Puppetry Residency, Season 2

The first season of VPR was a big success! Check out the page on this site for documentation. Here is the call for participants for season 2:

 

INTERESTED IN A FREE, AT-HOME PUPPETRY CLASS? The second season of Virtual Puppetry Residency will run October 1st through November 15th, 2020. The program is designed for adults to explore the craft of puppetry and share developments with a supportive team of participants over the internet. The project will explore: 1. Creating puppet shows that can be shared in a virtual format. 2. Crafting puppet characters focusing on voice, movement, and form. 3. Exploring a variety of puppetry styles. The project will be run through a combination of scheduled Zoom sessions, YouTube instruction and Email. Participants are asked to commit to a minimum of ten one-hour sessions. Puppets and skits created during the project will be shown in an online exhibition on the project website and might be shown by the project supporters (Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts). If you are interested, please contact me at tomsarver@gmail.com by September 15th.

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Virtual Puppetry Residency

INTERESTED IN A FREE, AT-HOME PUPPETRY CLASS? I’m developing a residency project exploring the craft of puppetry that participants can do at home. The project would explore: 1. Creating toy theater for home entertainment. 2. Crafting a puppet character focusing on voice, movement and form. 3. Developing skits that explore empathy and conflict resolution. The project would be run through a combination of scheduled Zoom sessions, Youtube instruction and Email. Children and adults are welcome, but there will be separate Zoom sessions for the two groups. The residency would be free for those who can commit to the minimum of ten one-hour sessions. It will take place during the month of June. Puppets and skits created during the project will be shown in an online exhibition on my website and might be shown by the project supporters (Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media and PA Council on the Arts). If you are interested, please contact me at tomsarver@gmail.com by May 15th. This is just an inquiry for now. Photo credit: Larry Rippel.

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