Art With a Flashlight

The ancient art of shadow puppetry is something most of us as kids have tried.  With a white sheet on the wall, and a flashlight, it’s fun to conjure up wolves, dogs and ominous people.  The folklore surrounding this 2,000-year-old practice tells of an Emperor who was able to cure his grief by viewing the shadow image of his favorite concubine who died of a mysterious illness.  This art form predates written language, and, as it has evolved over centuries, it has become dramatic theatre involving music, a script and creative carving and decoration of the puppets.  If you think about it as the oldest form of motion picture storytelling, it gives new meaning to shadow puppetry considering that motion pictures were invented only about a hundred years ago.

The Pelham Art Center is attempting to tear kids away from Nintendos and iPhones by introducing them to moving images they can create by themselves.  Two free workshops open for all ages are part of their celebration of the Chinese New Year taking place on January 21, from 1:30-3:30pm, as part of the Center’s Folk Art Series. Visitors can see a shadow puppet play, learn about the day’s history and customs, and create dragon puppets and calligraphic brush paintings with artist Lida Yang Zimmerman and artists from the Chinese Language School of Connecticut. The Chinese New Year falls on January 23, the first of 15 days celebrating the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, which is the fifth sign in the Chinese Zodiac cycle and represents success and happiness.   So if your kids can’t tear themselves away from their electronics, perhaps they would enjoy recreating Mario or Angry Birds as shadow puppets.

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