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Giant puppets, stilt walkers ready to strut their stuff

The Wisconsin State Journal

By Gayle Worland

Everybody’s getting ready to STRUT!

At the Madison Children’s Museum last week, staff and visitors worked to craft a giant chicken puppet to come alive on Downtown streets. In Mazomanie, stilt-walkers from the Wild Rumpus Circus rehearsed their high-altitude trot. Meanwhile, UW-Madison broadcast an invitation to any and all to don their zaniest regalia and join the promenade.

A bug mask, modeled by Laurie Rossbach of the Madison Children’s Museum, will be worn during Saturday’s STRUT! parade and celebration Downtown. Dozens of community groups are donning fanciful costumes for the event.


The occasion: The STRUT! parade, happening Saturday afternoon on Capitol Square. STRUT! is a community procession showcasing the work of more than two dozen Madison cultural and performance groups using dance, music, design, puppetry and stilt walking. The public is invited to watch — or to join the march.

The woman behind the festivities is artist Laura Anderson Barbata, the interdisciplinary artist in residence at UW-Madison’s Arts Institute. Barbata, who divides her time between Brooklyn, New York, and her native Mexico City, creates public art through dance, music and design, particularly by tapping into the larger-than-life, stilt performance traditions of the Caribbean, Mexico and West Africa.

Barbata’s international work was the subject of a Ruth Davis Design Gallery show at the university’s School of Human Ecology last fall. STRUT! is a product of her UW-Madison course this spring called “Community Arts Practice,” where students focused on the sorts of outreach and collaborations that are key to Barbata’s work.

The Downtown festivities on Saturday will include appearances by the Brooklyn Jumbies, stilt walkers based in Brooklyn who have worked with Barbata since 2007. Bently Spang, a Northern Cheyenne writer, educator and multidisciplinary artist who received his MFA in sculpture from UW-Madison, is also a featured guest for STRUT!.

The Brooklyn Jumbies, who paraded on New York’s Wall Street in 2011, will appear in Madison at the STRUT! parade Saturday on Capitol Square.

The procession around Capitol Square starts at 2 p.m., followed by a “Celebration and Dance-Off” at the Madison Children’s Museum. Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies will hold a meet and greet and book signing at the Café at The Edgewater at 5 p.m.

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