2021 Grants Challenge

City’s First Marionette Mobile to Unify a Post-Covid LA

An LA2050 grant will support the launch of a county-wide Marionette Mobile run by the Bob Baker Marionette Theater to bring self-contained, COVID-compliant puppet performances to every corner of Los Angeles. Each show will serve to connect intergenerational communities through the art of puppetry– and focus on the emotional and healing impact puppets can have on children and young adults.


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

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

As we surpass a full year of social isolation, studies show that youth are experiencing higher rates of depression and anxiety than any other age group. Even upon re-entry to a pre-pandemic manner of living, research predicts that there will be long-term emotional and behavioral implications resulting from routine disruptions; family stress due to financial pressures; loss; and even more time away from classrooms, friends and social groups. For nearly a century, the Bob Baker Theater and our collection of historic marionettes have been a cornerstone in the LA arts community, as both a child’s first exposure to live theater and a vehicle through which they can understand and articulate their emotions. It’s our mission to address this new reality of heightened anxiety by providing a joyful, accessible arts experience that will help young people better communicate both their internal struggles and creative imaginings through the unifying, time-old medium of marionette puppetry.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

We envision a county-wide expansion of our Bob Baker Marionette Mobile series, which will bring free performances and activities into low-income LA communities that have been hardest hit by Covid-19. With your support, Bob Baker will offer a full roster of programming in neighborhood parks/parking lots, with each stop-over consisting of a 30-minute performance followed by an activity in which youth interact with a wide array of puppets. In the event of another safer-at-home order or lockdown, the Marionette Mobile is fully viewable in drive-by format, even from the safety of ones home and bedroom window (inspired largely by drive-by parades and graduation celebrations). Our project takes inspiration from puppet trucks throughout history, such as the “Mobile Recreation Program” implemented in New York City in the 1960s, which sought to restore morale after an escalation of Civil Rights riots. Today, research shows that puppetry has the power to increase Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills in children, significantly elevating confidence, self-awareness and coping skills in those who experience and interact with the art form. Our request aims to empower and enliven youth to further explore the arts, while imbuing a sense of wonder and magic.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,500

Indirect Impact: 5,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our project aims to safely re-introduce live arts and theater to a community that has been devoid of in-person arts experiences since 2020. As the Los Angeles community has transformed to adapt to Covid-19 regulations, so has our programing; we’ve worked tirelessly to ensure our programs are responsive to community needs, both in terms of racial equity, safety and the emotional needs of the public. This project is a step in that direction. Furthermore, it represents a much-needed opportunity to unite intergenerational audiences, giving families a new avenue to engage restless youth, as parents now spend more time on childcare than ever before. Our intended impact is to increase the social and emotional wellbeing of youth, while re-establishing the arts as an extraordinary, motivational and essential part of public life in neighborhoods that historically lack arts opportunities.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We plan to measure the impact of the program both qualitatively and quantitatively. Qualitative data will be tracked via surveys, readily available to audience members on their mobile devices and as a print-out (in Spanish and English). Our intended outcome is for youth to report 80% or more improvement in social and emotional wellbeing. Surveys take under a minute and are designed by the Theater’s partner Hello Insight, an evaluation tool that helps youth development organizations prove impact and improve programs, with pre-built surveys, predictive analytics, and automated reports. Quantitative data will be tracked by program administrators, who will report on the following questions: 1) How many communities were served? 2) How many of those communities were in the 90th percentile of impoverished, Covid-impacted areas of Los Angeles? 3) Did the performance foster long-term engagement with arts-devoid communities?

Which of the PLAY metrics will you impact?​

Prevalence of trauma and adverse childhood experiences

Parks with intergenerational play opportunities

Open streets gatherings

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the best place to CONNECT