Puppets are an integral part of New York and its cultural scene. Now, the Museum of the City of New York is paying tribute to these quirky characters through a major exhibition running until April 3. Visitors can discover more than 100 puppets used in Broadway shows like "The Lion King."
Puppets aren't just child's play. According to exhibition curator Monxo López, they "often reflect the cultural changes, diverse communities, and political events that impact urban life." Indeed, " Puppets of New York " traces the impact of puppetry on New York City, and the diverse communities that call it home.
Many migrated to the American city with puppets in their suitcases. The mischievous Punch and his wife Judy arrived with the British, while shadow puppets came with the Asian diaspora, for example. "Immigrants from around the globe turned New York into a mosaic of puppetry traditions that both mirror their places of origin and blend with one another," notes Monxo López.
Visitors to the exhibition will discover giant puppets from Lunar New Year celebrations, as well as a Czech-American Beelzebub from the early 19th century. But some of the characters featured in "Puppets of New York" are even better known, such as Oscar the Grouch -- the grumpy green monster who lives in a garbage can on the children's show "Sesame Street" -- and Lamb Chop, the fluffy white sheep of the late American ventriloquist Shari Lewis.
The exhibition also pays tribute to the work of puppeteers such as Jim Henson, Ralph Lee and Bruce Cannon. All these artists help make New York "a global capital of puppetry," according to Whitney Donhauser, the museum's director. Still, that particular title no doubt belongs to the French city of Charleville-Mézières, which has been hosting the World Festival of Puppet Theaters since 1961. Despite this, Whitney Donhauser says the Big Apple has had a real influence on "this whimsical and adventurous art form." So much so that it is one of the few cities in the world where puppeteers are public employees.