Apr 14, 2014
06:09 AM
Arts & Entertainment

UConn's Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry Opens New Location

UConn's Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry Opens New Location

All images by Ray Bendici

To put it in theatrical terms: After years of languishing in the wings, UConn’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (BIMP) has finally moved to center stage.

The museum, which showcases the university’s storied puppetry arts program, has since 1996 been tucked away in a windowless space on the university’s oft-forgotten Depot Campus, a few miles away from the traffic of the main campus—last year, while open just three days a week, BIMP only welcomed about 1,100 visitors.  

The curtain has come down on that act of BIMP’s groundbreaking history and has gloriously risen on the next with the recent opening of the new space smack dab in the middle of bustling Storrs Center—after a year of construction, BIMP now sits at the apex of Royce Circle, overlooking the soon-to-be green and integrated into the new UConn Co-op Bookstore and Le Petit Marché Café. Given the terrific location, inviting galleries and visitor-friendly hours—Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.—the new BIMP should draw 1,100 visitors in the first few weeks alone.

With plenty of natural light streaming in, the new facility features polished wood floors, bright white walls, high ceilings and 4,332 square feet of museum, performance and support space, including three galleries, which will be changing exhibitions every three months or so. It also shares glass doors and display-case walls with the co-op, so parts of BIMP’s collection can easily be viewed by book buyers. The performance space can be configured so it can be used either for puppetry works or co-op author events, or even be open simultaneously to both. In addition, BIMP hosts numerous workshops for students and the general public throughout the year.

A large-screen TV continually shows past puppetry performances and there’s by-appointment access to the Kay Janney Library and Archives, a research collection of more than 2,500 books, scripts, manuscripts, posters and other puppet history items—including 700 films and videos. Certain performances are available for general viewing.

UConn’s puppetry arts program was founded and long spearheaded by master puppeteer and professor Frank Ballard whose work is celebrated in two current exhibits: Spectacular Extravaganzas: The Rod Puppetry of Frank Ballard, which features scores of Ballard’s intricately detailed and lovingly rendered rod puppets; and The World of Puppetry: From the Collections of the Ballard Institute, a sampling of BIMP’s permanent collection that features vintage marionettes, hand puppets, rod puppets and shadow fingers from around the world.

Also running currently is Puppets Through the Lens: Photography and the Performing Object, by Richard Termine ’75 (SFA), which showcases puppet-related images from a UConn puppetry arts program alumnus.

BIMP has pulled the right strings to properly present its storied collection—now it’s time to enjoy the show!                       

Admission is free; donations are welcome.


UConn's Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry Opens New Location

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