Chris Chappell, puppeteer, said he was one artist among many as a musician and guitarist several years ago. When he started making puppets, he wondered, “Where’d all the people go?”
Chris was able to find his people recently when he attended Beyond the Sock: Puppeteering for Television and Film workshop at the University of North Texas. According to Chris, “It was great to hang around with people doing the same thing I’m doing.”
Professional Development Grants from United Arts Council encourage artists to learn from leaders in their arts discipline at workshops like the one Chris attended. Grant funding can be used in many other ways as well including purchasing new equipment related to the art form or business development for the artist. The grants are available to help both emerging and established artists (in dance, drama, film/media, literary/playwright, music and visual art) take a bold next step, usually involving a new component, in their artistic career.
Chris had applied for a Professional Development Grant as a musician several years ago. As he began teaching himself the art of puppeteering, he remembered the grant opportunity and decided to look into it again. Fortunately, he still had a few days left before the application deadline when he became reacquainted with it.
Chris’s advice to other artists unsure about applying for a grant because of time constraints or other limitations. “Go for it,” says Chris. “It’s a great opportunity for artists to get funding to learn more about their art form. It’s a really good thing United Arts does to offer that chance for artists.”
Throughout the week-long workshop, Chris learned about both puppet building and performance. The performance part of the class was taught by Peter Linz and Noel MacNeal, Jim Henson Company trained puppeteers who have been featured on Sesame Street, among many other great roles.
“We began the workshop in a dance studio with mirrors on the wall saying our ABCs and numbers with just our bare hands and gradually moved on from there. By the second day we moved over to the TV studio in the same building. We used games and exercises to practice focus, lip sync, stillness, improvisation, and filling the frame, to name of a few of the skills we worked on.”
Then in the puppet building class, attendees designed and built the puppets. “It was an honor to learn new techniques from Pasha Romanowski of ProjectPuppet.com. I was able to ask him questions about building materials and also about the business side of puppet building.”
Chris builds puppets to sell and also creates commercials and videos with his puppets. He won a commercial contest in 2015 and recently found out that he will receive an award via an online Spoof Dance contest.
“If I ever have a chance to go back, I will. I met so many amazing people from all around the country and from other countries such as Sri Lanka and Israel.”
If you’re an artist wanting to learn new skills in your discipline, let a Professional Development Grant from United Arts Council help you carry out your ideas and meet your people. And if you know someone who may benefit from a Professional Development Grant, share this opportunity to grow an artistic career.
The next Professional Development Grant workshops will be held in January. Learn more about these grant opportunities.