Embracing the future of arts with puppets and technology in Midtown

Two centers, located in Midtown Atlanta, have dedicated their vision towards changing the way the community interacts with art, by providing stimulating programs that focus on creativity, education and visual exhibits.

The Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) and the Center for Puppetry Arts are creating a space where people can let their imaginations wander. Through numerous outreach and educational programs, the organizations hope to impact people of all ages.

A display explaining the usage and benefits of the August Smart Lock at the Museum of Design Atlanta.  Photos by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal
A display explaining the usage and benefits of the August Smart Lock at the Museum of Design Atlanta.
Photos by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal

The Museum of Design Atlanta

Curator of creativity, Maria Cramer, recently joined the MODA team. Cramer believes technology is constantly evolving and with the help of museums, like MODA, new advancements have a place to be appreciated and displayed. Which is why the museum constantly adapts to change by rotating a series of exhibits.

“We like to say we’re the only museum in the southeast dedicated exclusively to the study and celebration of all things design,” Cramer said. “We have that acute design focus, and that is the reason why we actually rotate out exhibit.”

The Museum of Design Atlanta is dedicated to advancing the community through design by providing programs and visual exhibits that inspire creativity. Cramer explains there are two reaches questions.

  • What is the museum of the 21 century?
  • Can a design museum change the world?

A reaches question is like a mission statement that provides daily motivation for the staff and board directors who are a part of MODA. Cramer says that the reaches question serves as a reminder in how the MODA team see’s the museum in relation to the community and the world.

“We restructure things here all the time, [when] attempting to create the museum of the 21 century, and that can ultimately change the world,” Cramer said.

The most rewarding part about Cramer’s job is being able to see the mission of MODA, as it relates to education, creativity and functionality, positively affect the community. As the design industry changes, the museum adapts to that change by incorporating engaging programs and exhibits to educate the community.

“What’s so amazing about working at place like MODA is our work, [which] has a strong purpose behind it,” Cramer said. “The work that we are doing here is constantly being pushed and challenged.

 

Current Exhibitions

On You: Wearable Technology

Designers and Curators, Clint Zeagler and Thad Starner, created a visual display alluding to the future of wearable technology. The designers used a contrasting approach to show the evolution of technology as it relates to fashion arts, athletics and more. According to Cramer, the exhibit has grown in popularity, because it includes a detailed view on human interactions with technology.

“We’re constantly evolving and taking on these new exhibitions for the purpose of bringing new design to Atlanta, and we want it to change our industry,” Cramer said. “It’s a really special exhibition and it’s been really popular in the community so far.”

 

Beautiful Users: Designing for people

User-centered design takes on retable functionality with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The traveling exhibit features approximately 100 objects used to show how user-centered design is simply a way of designing for comfort or convenience.

“[It’s] your understanding of how people are designing things specifically for the human body,” Cramer said. “Having both of these exhibitions in house simultaneously has been interesting for us because you get to know your user better.”

Educational Programs

3D printed custom prosthetic limbs displayed at the Museum of Design Atlanta.    Photos by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal
3D printed custom prosthetic limbs displayed at the Museum of Design Atlanta.
Photos by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal

3D printing

MODA offers adult programs such as the 3D printing class. Participants are instructed on the fundamentals, like how to operate the CAD printing program, and discuss the innovative importance that 3D printing offers to users around the world.

Throughout the class the participants will design an object, which will later be printed. The possibilities are endless, for instance participants have designed luggage tags, phone holders and silly creatures like an octopus wearing a fedora.

“It really gives everyone a chance to come in, learn a new program and get familiar with this advance technology,” Cramer said. “We print the designs for every participant and they get to come into the museum to pick up their creation.”

 

Kids Minecraft

Kids Minecraft is an educational program for young designers. Throughout the duration of the class the young are given the chance to take a digital 2D game into a recreated 3D world using printing technology. The designers are engaging with a space that allows them to make cities, and later print their creations.

“[We’re] getting kids together with the common goal of designing something for the greater good of their community, and in this case minecraft [is that] community,” Cramer said. “It’s a little world, and it’s thought provoking, inspiring and hopefully spawns creativity.”

MODA offers numerous programs, that cater to all ages and curiosities. Programs such as, Family Free Day, which takes place every month on the second Sunday. The activities for that day are preplanned, with a guided tour of the exhibitions. For Cramer, the programs are just another way that the museum provides design education to the community.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re interested or become interested we have a place for you here,” Cramer said.

-For more information about MODA’s interactive classes, visual exhibits and programs, visit the museum’s website.

 

The Center for Puppetry Arts

The cast of Sesame Street posing in front of 1969 sign, the year the show first premiered on television.  Photos by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal
The cast of Sesame Street posing in front of 1969 sign, the year the show first premiered on television.
Photos by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal

The Center for Puppetry Arts is home to an extensive collection of iconic puppets and a devoted staff who share their passion for arts with the community. Marketing Director, Therese Aun, started working at the center as a puppeteer, and she returned to take on a new position that allowed her to share a passion for puppets with the world.

“People who work at the Center develop a passion for puppetry and it’s a unique place in the world,” Aun said. “Not only do we produce and perform original live performances of our own, but we also present puppetry companies from across the country and around the word.”

One way that the vision has surpassed expectations is through the Distance Learning Program. By incorporating technology devices, with videoconferences capabilities, the center uses a curriculum based program to combine arts and puppetry with educational topics such as science, social studies and other learning objectives.

“Our education and Distance Learning teams provide state-of-the-art educational programming onsite and offsite for everyone from preschoolers to professionals,” Aun said. “Our three areas of programming (theater/museum/education) make us a true Center for the art of puppetry.”

 

A full sized Big Bird from Sesame Street on display at the Center for Puppetry Arts.  Photos by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal
A full sized Big Bird from Sesame Street on display at the Center for Puppetry Arts.
Photos by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal

Puppet Programs  

Compared to other forms of theater, puppet theater requires various acting techniques used to transgress a story from the puppeteer into the puppet. There are programs offered by the center that teach people about the art of puppeteering, such as costuming workshops, historical museum exhibits (like Jim Henson’s Labyrinth), puppet films and more.

“Puppetry transcends the limits of the human form by making the impossible, possible,” Aun said. “They highlight our humanity by juxtaposing our humanness next to puppets.”

 

Costuming: Puppets, Puppets and Mascots

Costuming is an educational workshop delivered by one of the original muppet creators, Bonnie Erickson. On Sept. 26, the curator for Miss. Piggy will break down the techniques for making a costume, such as looking for fabrics, designing and construction.

The Jim Henson Collection

The muppet creator and pioneer, Jim Henson has an extensive exhibit commemorating the iconic moments of his legacy. The Center for Puppetry Arts has one of the largest collections of Henson’s work, featuring interactive pieces that illustrate his work from brainstorming, design and more.

 

Everyone's favorite monster, Elmo.  Photo by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal
Everyone’s favorite monster, Elmo.
Photo by Lahar Samantarai | The Signal

Family Series: Old MacDonald’s Farm

Even shows such as Old MacDonald, require intensive planning. When it comes to creating the design and performance, there are multiple elements that go into making a story, according to Aun.

“It is an intensely collaborative art – story, design, music and movement all have to work as one,” Aun said. “There is a choreography that is essential to successful execution.”

Younger children and families can enjoy a whimsical performance about a classic story. The interactive Old MacDonald show has singing, dancing and puppet farm animals that help bring the story to life.

All Ages Welcomed

The preservation of iconic puppetry art is one example of how the center stands apart from other museums in the area.

Some of the collection contains exclusive pieces found in Atlanta. For Aun, having a chance to share the history with new visitors is a rewarding experience.

“Atlanta should know there is no place like the Center anywhere else in this country,” Aun said. “There is no other place that is simultaneously dedicated to the preservation of the art of puppetry.”

When it comes to promoting puppetry, the center caters to everyone. There is programing for target audiences such as mature adults, families and children.

“The museum certainly is for everyone, while we have performances and educational offerings that are very targeted,” Aun said.

-For more information about shows and exhibits offered at the Center for Puppetry Arts, visit the center’s website.  

 

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