2020 Grants Challenge

The Academy of Puppetry and Allied Arts

With funding from LA 2050 we intend to establish the Academy of Puppetry and Allied Arts which will provide lifelong learning through the many entry points that puppetry offers, with a specific focus on school age K-12 groups. Included in this program are musical & literary resources directly from our archives, programs and classes that explore puppetry through the intersection of art and technology, as well as professional mentors available to advise students in our theater’s storefront, a hub dedicated to direct engagement with the community.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

East LA

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

LAUSD (please select only if you have a district-wide partnership or project)

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

What is the need you’re responding to?

Bob Baker’s origin story begins with the first puppet show he saw at six-years old; yet the forces that shaped Bob Baker’s life-long dedication to puppetry did not stop with the curtain call. Rather, credit belongs to the adults, teachers, and mentors that gave Bob the resources to foster his curiosity and build a legacy that has entertained Angelenos for over half a century. The closure of our shows due to Covid-19 forced us to think about the impact we have on our audiences outside of the runtime of our shows. We want to play a deeper role in our community, pivoting our organizational focus from presentation to participation. Working with educators to develop curriculum around the various entry-points that puppetry has to offer, we also hope to break socio-economic obstacles to quality arts education, often expensive or exclusive to certain communities. We hope to become a long-lasting influence on students, just as those early adults were to the formation of Bob Baker’s calling.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

From designing Disneyland’s storefronts to creating interactive children's museum exhibits as a new nonprofit, The Bob Baker Marionette Theater has played a multitude of roles. These experiences, along with our original shows, not only give us an oral tradition of artistic expertise and vital-resources for cultural safeguarding, but also highlight an ability to adapt to changing circumstances. We believe that this fluidity will be necessary in working with educators to find what is most needed for their classrooms. Already, our partnership with Zappos Kids has sponsored thousands of children from low-income and Title I schools, providing an inaugural theatrical experience to children that might have otherwise never received one. We recognize that each artistic experience is a valuable & rare use of funding, and for this reason we want the impact of seeing a BBMT show to last as long as possible, manifesting itself in the many creative paths that come from puppetry and the allied arts.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 9,000

Indirect Impact: 40,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

The broader impact of this work will be to instill in students an interdisciplinary understanding of soft and hard skills, offering hands-on technical knowledge, while also placing this training in a social context. We believe that sparking a child’s curiosity in STEM content goes hand-in-hand with the ability to teach empathy and explore social issues, tasks for which puppets, as externalized beings, are well equipped to do. In practicing this holistic pedagogy, we hope to meet the needs of schools with lower graduation rates, building long-term relationships with the students and educators that come through our program. By 2050, we hope to have gathered enough data to further defend the necessity of arts in STEM education.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

We hope that the larger impact for this project is that the core principles and entry points of puppetry are recognized and utilized as a valuable and accessible educational tool for educators and all of the visitors to our Theater. We believe that through the inclusion of technical and interpersonal instruction in our Academy of Puppetry & Allied arts we can better foster both the entrepreneurial and employable skills of Los Angeles youth, in addition to making the building blocks of puppetry (mechanics, engineering, storytelling, fabrication, performance) available to all.

During the process of creating materials to send to schools for pre and post-show activities we plan to have an ongoing dialogue with teachers and students groups. Surveys will be sent to teachers and groups we have hosted in the past to use as research prior to the creation of new materials, and the Theater will also conduct post-show surveys with teachers and aides on site to gage their immediate response to the show as it relates to preparatory materials. In addition to these conversations and surveys, we plan to conduct long-term studies on repeat attendees both in formal school settings and more casual family outings. By monitoring long-term engagement with the Theater and our Academy program, we hope to collect valuable data on how lifelong engagement with the arts can contribute to overall graduation rates, community engagement, and career choice.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​

Arts education

Enrollment in afterschool programs

Proficiency in STEM

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the best place to PLAY

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Communications support