Art students bring festivities to Main Street

By Emma Kerr, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 6, 2014

This weekend, FestiFools and FoolMoon brought Ann Arbor students and residents out of winter hibernation and onto Main Street and Washington Street to kick off the summer festival season. In its eighth year, the signature Ann Arbor events once again brought families and students alike to witness the parade of papier-mâché puppets, including giant famous faces, ice cream cones saying “let’s spoon,” and monsters and dragons waving over the crowd.

Shops were filled with customers and the streets were lively after a long winter. Art students put on the event as their semester project, which is intended for children of the Ann Arbor community. Mark Tucker, Lloyd Hall Scholar Program arts director and creative director of WonderFool Productions, said this event offers an opportunity for students to interact with the community.

“This just seemed like it would allow students a lot more freedom and give them the ability to work with people from the community, and to then end up showing their artwork to the broader community, so all of that seemed to make sense for getting students more motivated to make more interesting pieces,” Tucker said.

Though the class began as a unique opportunity to get more non-art majors involved in the arts on campus, it has evolved into a manifestation of Ann Arbor’s culture, in all of its quirkiness and creativity. The event benefits the entire community, Tucker said — families enjoy the bright puppets and music, local vendors and shops enjoy the flooded streets and foot traffic, while students take part in a challenging, engaging form of self-expression.

“Because I’ve been with my students for the last couple of months, I’m really looking forward to how my students respond to this experience,” Tucker said. “Obviously we aren’t trying to make professional puppet makers, but I’m excited to see how this experience meshes with their career goals.”

Students participated in bringing their creations to life and also came to support friends and enjoy the festival. The beautiful, intricate and sometimes frightening puppets seemed to capture the spirit of Ann Arbor, according to students.

LSA freshman Florence Rivkin came to support the participants and said it’s an event she looks forward to each year.

“It’s very interesting. I think it’s a little scary, but it reminds me of the movie Across the Universe,” she said. “They are very impressive, and they seem to be bringing a lot of joy to all of the little kids here today. It is very unique to Ann Arbor — a very Ann Arbor thing to do”

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, who attended the event, and University President Mary Sue Coleman were two of the inspirations for the giant look-alike puppets.

Though the festival has become a widely anticipated Ann Arbor staple, this was the first year the University’s School of Art and Design chose not to participate. Tucker said he believes their absence only creates an opportunity for new creations and ideas to flourish, as both students and members of the community can participate in the creation and utilization of the puppets.

“I think we are lucky we live in a town that has such a strong connection to the University,” Tucker said. “It is interesting and rewarding to figure out that they live in this huge, broader community. I think FestiFools is one of the many artistic offerings in this town and I think it is unique to this campus — it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country.”