‘Honey For The Heart’ Puppet Workshop Open To Public

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In one corner, a woman pulled tape out of an old cassette. The black, shiny material will be later crocheted into locks of hair.

In another corner, a volunteer placed strips of newspaper soaked in cornstarch paste onto a giant mask moulded from styrofoam.

It’s day three of the collaborative community art project called "Honey for the Heart," and everyone is invited to take part.

For the next three weeks, artists, students and community members will gather at 29 E. Carpenter St. to build massive puppets constructed mostly from recycled material.

The final products will be the highlight of the second annual puppet parade through uptown Athens on Oct. 26, just before the Halloween block party.

“We want to blow the minds of everyone on Court Street,” said Patty Mitchell, a local artist who spearheaded the project. “It’s a total explosion of joy, of possibility.”

Mitchell also sees the project as a new Halloween tradition that’s more family and community oriented — an alternative to what many times can be more of a ruckus.

“Athens can be known for this puppet spectacle in addition to the block party,” Mitchell said.

The project is sponsored by Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts, the university’s learning communities and the Arts of Ohio. The sponsors provided extra funding ($13,000) and an extra week of workshop time for this year’s project.

In the middle of the room, Wendy Minor Viny, an artist based out of Meigs County, contorted and stapled an old pizza box to get the desired shape. She’s thinking the cardboard sculpture will be attached to the top of an old beach umbrella, which could serve as a prop in the parade.

“But if i don’t like it, I just take it apart and start again,” Minor Viny said.

That’s the beauty of this project, she added.

“You can’t make a mistake,” she said. “It’s meant to be fun, creative and an exchange of ideas.”

Mitchell and fellow artist Robert Lockheed drew inspiration for the project from Daniel Polnau, a Minneapolis-based artist and expert puppet-maker. Mitchell and Lockheed had met Polnau during an artist residency with the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Polnau has been involved in the Athens project from the beginning and returned to work again this year.

“It’s fun to come back” Polnau said. “We planted a seed last year. This project is like an enchanted garden; it’s cultivated over years. The hope is that it would become an ongoing thing.”

That’s Mitchell’s hope, too. She said the project could evolve into a permanent puppet theater, something she thinks could be an asset to the town’s “creative economy.”

“We could have something major here,” she said.

Those who are interested in helping build the puppets are free to stop by any time during the open workshop, which is 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday through Oct. 25. Individuals are welcome to bring tools, items to donate or nothing at all. All ages and skill levels are welcome.