PasadenaStarNews.com
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August 24, 2005


PASADENA -- The Conservatory of Puppetry Arts is looking for a new home for its collection of more than 3,000 puppets dating back to the Victorian era.

The nonprofit organization has charge of one of a handful of major collections in the United States, and members want to keep it in the San Gabriel Valley.

The conservatory currently leases space from the American Friends Service Committee at 980 N. Fair Oaks Ave., but the building is up for sale. Members say they've been told to expect to move out by November.

About half of the 3,000-puppet collection is stored in the conservatory headquarters; the rest is at the home of Altadena resident Alan Cook, who has been building the collection for decades.

"Each of these represents a piece of history,' said Beth Fernandez, a conservatory volunteer and former puppeteer.

Their current 1,500-square-foot space for which they pay $1 a foot in rent is crowded, with a photography area just feet away from a categorization table. Books on puppetry line one wall, and puppets are hung from every conceivable surface. A storeroom across the hall segregates boxed and labeled puppets by their place of origin.

The conservatory moved into the space just two years ago after city officials relocated tenants from the Armory Northwest to create office space while Pasadena City Hall undergoes renovations.

The group wants to find a building with space for photography, conservation, restoration, storage, cataloging and exhibitions. An old school or library would be ideal, Fernandez said.

"There's such stories in here,' said Phil Morrison, who is a conservatory volunteer and a professor of puppetry at Cal State Northridge.

"This room is reeking of diversity,' Morrison said, pointing out a Sicilian rod puppet and puppets from France and Africa. "Storytelling is centuries-old, and that's what puppets do best. We really need a place for it, otherwise it's just going to go into storage.'

The Los Angeles area is one of five major U.S. historical centers of puppetry, Cook said, along with Chicago, Detroit, New York City and San Francisco.

"My concern is that the collection started here,' Cook said. "It should stay here.'

The conservatory can be reached at mail@copa-puppets.org, or call Fernandez at (626) 797-4291.
  



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