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Workshop: Baltimore’s Crankies—Make the World’s Greatest Stories Unroll!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019, 1:004:00 pm
Carroll Mansion, 800 E. Lombard Street
Sponsored by the 2019 Local Planning Committee and the Maryland State Arts Council

In the contemporary world of shadow puppetry, Baltimore is famous for its Crankies. Crankies are moving panoramas with long pictorial scrolls that are typically hand-cranked, hence the name, to tell a story inside a viewing box, much like film in an old camera.The boxes are often backlit for shadow puppetry. Song, narration, and pageantry accompany the performance, often drawing on folk tales and local legends to highlight contemporary community experiences. Baltimore’s Creative Alliance has hosted the annual Baltimore Crankie Fest for six years to sold-out audiences eager to slip into the world of shadow and light.

“There’s a fireside magic to it,” says Josh Kohn, performance director at Creative Alliance. “It’s like an old-school variety show.” More than performance, however, Crankies are a genre-defying artform changing the way local museums and arts organizations are engaging with their communities. 

Join renowned artist and Crankie-maker Katherine Fahey for a special collaborative workshop geared for adults to make hand-cranked scrolling performance art. 


Workshop leaders:


Nancy Proctor is Executive Director of The Peale Center, the oldest purpose-built museum in the country.  She will discuss her innovative, community-driven strategies for making the museum relevant in today’s Baltimore.  With a PhD in American art history and a background in filmmaking, curation and art criticism, Nancy lectures and publishes widely on technology and innovation in museums, in French and Italian as well as English.

Katherine Fahey is an artist, puppeteer, and designer, who embodies a community of musicians, artists, and writers where elegance and authenticity are signal virtues. She has been working as a professional artist for more than ten years. Her cut paper and prints have become music posters, shadow puppets, portraits, set design and animation, including lush music videos for musicians such as Wye Oak and ellen cherry. Katherine was drawn to this art form because of its accessible, intimate, and communal nature. She has performed locally and nationally at festivals and shows. Known as the godmother of Baltimore Crankies, Katherine is the only artist to be featured every year at the Baltimore Crankie Festival.

What to Expect:

Nancy Proctor will introduce the artist and frame the workshop in the context of the innovative engagement strategies she is developing at the Peale Center. Katherine Fahey will talk about the history and variety of Crankies and how she has worked with artists to reflect ideas of relevance to the community. Workshop participants will work, with guidance, to create a group Crankie, with each participant contributing one scene. Fahey will guide participants as they work through the issues of choosing a story, planning, scale, visual storytelling, storyboarding, and transitions. Participants will also receive a kit to make their own small Crankie out of found objects, included in the price of registration. Fahey will bring sample crankies made from found boxes and will share education and workshop ideas. Participants are encouraged to bring a device (phone, tablet or laptop) to look up visual imagery. Transportation to the workshop is not provided; Carroll Mansion is a 14-minute walk from the conference hotel or a 6-minute ride in a Taxi, Uber, or Lyft. Tour organizers will lead those who gather in the hotel lobby at 12:30 to walk over together.


Photo and artwork by Katherine Fahey

Helpful Links:

Register by August 31. Maximum: 20 participants

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