July 26, 2000

Punch’s Progress: A Century of American Puppetry Exhibition

Punch's Progress: A Century of American Puppetry
Traveling Detroit Institute of Arts Exhibition
Venues: September 2000 - April 2002

Dancing on nimble fingers or twirling from strings, puppets have taught and entertained generations from America's earliest days. The Detroit Institute of Arts traces this amazing trajectory in Punch's Progress: A Century of American Puppetry. Touring statewide, the exhibition provides an opportunity to enjoy the history, wonder and artistry of puppets. Punch's Progress is one of many traveling exhibitions the museum organizes to help fulfill its mission of extending its reach to various communities.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is home to one of the most historically important puppet collections in North America. Drawn from the critically acclaimed Paul McPharlin Collection, this exhibition includes fanciful marionettes, rod, hand and shadow puppets that delight audiences and reveal the importance of American puppetry and puppeteers. Included are diverse works, ranging from American wooden puppets to elegant marionettes of popular icons, such as entertainer Josephine Baker, skater Sonja Henie and former President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Punch's baby.

Puppet shows were popular in frontier America, and by the turn of the century elaborately detailed figures performed to live audiences in music halls. Professional puppet troupes toured the vaudeville theater circuit, often accompanied by full orchestras. During the 1920s, puppetry became recognized and appreciated by educational and arts organizations, and classic literature was often performed. During the late 1930s to early 1940s, cabaret puppetry for adults was popular, and the first puppets for a growing new medium, television, were created. Puppetry quickly became popular mass entertainment, often directed at children. Punch's Progress explores the wonder and evolution of this popular art.

Punch's Progress: A Century of American Puppetry will appear in the following venues:
Muskegon Museum of Art, September 7 - October 22, 2000
Detroit Institute of Arts, November 19 - December 31, 2000
Meadow Brook Art Gallery, January 12 - February 25, 2001
Port Huron Museum, May 5 - June 24, 2001
Ella Sharp Museum, November 17, 2001 - January 13, 2002
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, February 1 - April 28, 2002

This exhibition was organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts and is supported by a generous grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation. Additional support provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the City of Detroit.