25 Years of Squallis Puppeteers

Squallis Puppeteers is officially a quarter century old as of this Halloween and we are celebrating with a retrospective exhibition at Portland Museum. Come see puppets, props, pictures and posters from Squallis’s twenty five year history. Many different makers, players and personalities have graced their performances and audiences over the years. We hope this will be an opportunity for everyone to learn the story of Squallis and share their own stories about the grassroots organization.

Photo from The Chicken Show (the first Squallis performance from Halloween 1997)

Squallis Puppeteers was born in Louisville, Kentucky on Halloween, 1997 with the very first performance of The Chicken Show, a rock opera combining original puppets and music with social commentary. More shows followed, tackling personal subjects and real-world issues, and the collective grew. By 2003 a need for approachable, hands-on arts experiences in schools and community spaces had presented itself so frequently that the founders decided to form the organization into a nonprofit, quitting their day jobs, and dedicating themselves to Squallis’ focused mission: To use the art of puppetry to free imaginations, to create fantastic characters, and to tell the stories important to the Louisville community.

The purpose of Squallis Puppeteers within this community is to help children and adults communicate, connect, and learn, by facilitating puppetry experiments that promote the lifelong exploration of creativity. Squallis frequently repurposes discarded materials, reconfiguring and transforming them into magical objects that can tell stories and share meaning. The mysterious and often cosmic process of using what can be found in the moment is part of the enchantment of Squallis puppetry. To teach a new way of finding art materials and solving problems, to demonstrate to children that creativity can be practiced for free, anywhere, anytime; this is at the heart of their social art form.

The gang’s all here!

Over the years Squallis has put on many shows. Some productions have featured fifteen puppeteers in important theaters. Others are two person shows in the back of school cafeterias. They have danced onstage with My Morning Jacket in front of thousands of people many wonderful times. They have marched down many streets in celebration and in protest. Their touring programs have visited hundreds of schools and served over 25,000 children across the state. Their founder, Nora Christensen, traveled to rural China to work with children impacted by a deadly earthquake. Squallis has made so many puppets in the past twenty-five years that it makes our heads spin. If we consider all the puppets they have made for their shows and programs, plus all the one-of-a-kind puppets they have sewn and sold at art fairs, combined with all the finger puppets and sock puppets made by children and families at their workshops, Squallis has likely contributed over 50,000 puppets to the world since that Halloween in 1997!

After generating so many puppets and so many magical moments over the past quarter century Squallis is starting to reimagine how to best meet the needs of our times. Squallis is building exciting partnerships in new places to better reach the folks who could benefit most. They are busy distilling their essential values, their greatest resources, and their best puppets, so that they will be left with the finest elements. Squallis is going to look different in coming years. Soon they might appear a bit smaller, but with a new strength and the same dedication to inspire and to serve.  

Blurb provided by Shawn Hennessey and Nora Christensen of Squallis Puppeteers.

Want even more info? Check out coverage of the exhibit from WFPL and LOUtoday!