I got goose bumps watching giant paper mache creatures come to life, limited only by their creator’s imagination. It was the 8th annual Festifools, an event that takes place on the first Sunday of April to celebrate April Fool’s Day. For one hour, these majestic puppets marched to the beat of music up and down Main Street, often stopping to interact with the throngs of spectators. Although it is a well-orchestrated event requiring hundreds of hours of preparation, the beauty of it is that it has the look and feel of a random, spontaneous, “let’s get together” street party that brings out people of all ages.
Mark Tucker, a University of Michigan art teacher to mostly non-art majors, was searching for a novel way to bring his students together with community members to create something unique and exciting for his “Art in Public Spaces” course. The result was the Street Theather Art (START) project. Through his work with a neighborhood theater group, he got the idea to create a student puppet-making workshop assisted by community volunteers which would culminate at the semester’s end with a public parade in downtown Ann Arbor. With the whole concept not really clear in his head, and not knowing if they could even really deliver, his encouraging talks with the business community and the city spurred him on – and Festifools was born. Because of its enormous popularity, a second event was added: FoolMoon, a nighttime luminary festival that takes place on the Friday night before the Festifools parade.
Tucker saw the importance of actively encouraging students to work with the community and used his students to bring the arts to the community in a fun, whimsical way creating an engaging and educational experience for all ages.
Cultural Economic Development is one of the 8 assets that the League has identified to help create desirable and unique places to live. It’s an event like Festifools that not only brings people together, but contributes to the long-term economic health of a community and region.
The League had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and visit the studio where the puppets are made as well as participate in one of the several workshops held downtown that invites the community to come in and make their own luminary. We had a chance to hear all about this creative experience from Tucker himself and we will be telling his story in more detail in the future. For now, check out the video and get a flavor of what these majestic puppets have to offer. I promise that you’ll get goose bumps too!