It could be a little unnerving being watched by a few dozen over-sized papier-mâché creatures, but luckily The Chronicle was not alone: Saturday’s FestiFools open house drew more than 100 people to its studio across from Crisler Arena, a cavernous room scented with the odd yet not unpleasant mixture of glue and pancake batter.
The two-hour pancake breakfast event was a thank you to volunteers, and a preview of work being done for the third annual FestiFools parade, held this year on Sunday, April 5.
A bewigged Mark Tucker, who partnered with Shoshana Hurand in 2006 for the first FestiFools parade, said the group had recently been told by the University of Michigan that they could have the room as a permanent site – good news, since their first location was a garage on Felch Street, and they’d previously been told by UM that this space in the Campus Security Services Building was temporary
Tucker teaches art through UM’s Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, mostly to students who aren’t art majors and aren’t planning a career in the arts. Hurand was a former student of his as an undergraduate, and later returned to UM as a graduate student in social work. While Tucker is teaching people to become “art appreciators,” Hurand says her goal is to get people connected who might not otherwise interact. Making art is a great way to do that, she says.
Rachel Brooks is taking Tucker’s “Art in Public Places” course now. She was at a table molding clay with Max Klarman, the son of local photographer Myra Klarman (whose photos frequently appear on The Chronicle). Brooks, a UM senior majoring in business, said she’s taking Tucker’s course because she wanted something that involved her in the Ann Arbor community. Sometimes the university is just too self-contained, she said.
There’s nothing self-contained about FestiFools. It’s an exuberant frolic through the streets of downtown Ann Arbor, with whimsical, sometimes macabre, often political larger-than-life puppets made by students and others in the community. Foolishness isn’t just encouraged – it’s required.
Though FestiFools does rely on donations, this event wasn’t primarily a fundraiser – there was no admission charged. But you could drop some coin if you wanted: Volunteers were selling T-shirts and FestiFools magnets made by Pedro and Angela Martin. Tucker said they planned to hold an official fundraiser on April 4, the evening before this year’s FestiFools parade, at the downtown Ann Arbor home of Newcombe Clark.
Many thanks, as always, to Myra Klarman for partnering with The Chronicle to present her photographs with this article. She is the official photographer for FestiFools – what follows is a sampling of her work taken at Saturday’s open house.