Arts Learning with COMPAS: Largescale Puppets at Talahi Elementary


This week with Chris (Lutter-Gardella) has been one of the most beautiful weeks I have ever seen second graders have.”  – John Bowden (Talahi Community Elementary Educator)

It’s not every day two large dragons parade down the halls of Talahi Elementary, but that’s exactly what happened when students teamed up with COMPAS Teaching Artist  Christopher Lutter-Gardella. Luckily for everyone involved the dragons weren’t fire-breathing!

Talahi Elementary’s Third Graders and COMPAS Teaching Artist Chris Lutter-Gardella created largescale puppets that are animal-like representations of the students’ inner selves tying into the grade 3 life science standards. Thanks to a MSAB Arts Learning grant, students got to extend their puppet making skills from previous projects with the artist and display the puppets first at a puppet parade, and then on mounts for extended display in the school building.

“The goal was to construct two large five-foot dragons that took part in our puppet parade on Friday, November 10th” says Bowden. Needless to say, the excellently crafted mythical creatures stole the show. “Their fellow students were impressed by the results of this three week large puppet making project.”

This was all part of Christopher’s residency, The Puppet Farm: “Waste-to-Wonder”. Students practiced the four R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reptiles) in order to manifest wondrous animals, such as their dragons. Christopher and the students strategically utilized recycled materials to create an artistic project that had never been done at Talahi. With this project, Christopher was able to bring out the creative side of every student involved. Even when the dragons no longer roam the halls, it will be an artistic endeavor remembered for years to come. 

Example of puppet dragon designed by Christopher

Example of puppet dragon designed by Christopher

“This project reinforces my belief that Chris is one of the most talented artists that I have ever worked with;” Bowden said. “COMPAS should be proud of Chris and what he can do.”

We most definitely are proud! Want to know more about Christopher’s work? Check out his work with older adults in our Artful Aging™ program!

Every year, COMPAS connects 7-10 schools with teaching artists for extended arts learning residencies around a theme. This year COMPAS Teaching Artists are exploring the environment and environmental issues through the arts in with schools in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Albert Lea, Cloquet, Warroad, Roseville, and Elk River.

Are you an educator or school administrator who is interested in having your school be one of our arts learning partners next year? Let us know!
Call or Email Julie Strand, Arts Program Director.