The Rapidian

ArtPrize 2013: Cooperfly Puppet Troup improvs their way through 'the ArtPrize conversation'

Puppeting is more than just an interest for Kevin Kammeraad and Justin Haveman
Jacob and Kevin Kammeraad

Jacob and Kevin Kammeraad /Curtsey of Kevin Kammeraad

EdGar and Justin Haveman

EdGar and Justin Haveman /Curtsey of Kevin Kammeraad

Throughout the years ArtPrize has drawn people from all over the world, not just see art, but to experience it for themselves. While a great deal of the entries are stationary, a select few are not. One such example would be that of Kevin Kammeraad and Justin Haveman, cousins who performed their ArtPrize entry Puppets at Pearl and Monroe.  The two brought smiles to many faces with their various puppets - each exuding many different personalities and voices, and old and young alike seem to enjoy their affinity for improvisational comedy.

Kammeraad, a Grand Valley State University graduate, is a highly successful puppeteer and author.  Since 1998 Kammeraad has been going to schools and libraries sharing his passion for puppets, education, and children.  He connects well with anyone who approaches him, and many children and adults remember him from previous author various past appearances.  Haveman, who officially joined his cousin (Kammeraad) at ArtPrize 2012, has adjusted well and is enjoying being a puppeteer.

Throughout ArtPrize 2013, Breeko, one of the puppets operated by Kammeraad could be seen dancing along to the music of the bands playing at Rosa Parks Circle. Breeko would ask passersby about their day, about their ArtPrize experience, and would occasionally sing songs. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and “You Are My Sunshine” seem to be his specialties.  While some children hid by their parents, others got right up against the gate that separates them from the puppet theater to talk directly to the puppets.

Haveman said, “ArtPrize is a great means for us to develop more material. It is pretty much boot camp for a performer. You are on constantly.”

Kammeraad agreed, describing the ArtPrize environment as one where they could “improv and develop what we’re doing. Coming up with ideas that we’d never come up with on our own. Because you don’t come up with them, they just kind of happen.”

Both appreciate that ArtPrize allows them to experiment. Kammeraad explained, “[Improv] never gets old ‘cause it’s always spontaneous, it’s always new stuff for the kids, or families or whoever [shows up or walks past].”

ArtPrize 2013 marked Kammeraad’s third year participating, and Haveman’s second.  The duo made their first joint appearance last year at St. Cecilia’s Music Center where they ran several scripted shows per day, and numerous outdoor presentations as well in the same theater that they are using this year. The construction of said theater was done when Kammeraad joined a group of about fifty people in 2010 with a project called “Plan B,” a joint entry by numerous artists and the goal of this team was to use what already existed.  Kammeraad explains, “The concept of kind of starting from scratch, build with what we have – building stuff out of what is available, that’s why we built the puppet theater.”

While neither of them would live in their theater, one could say it’s done the job of housing their most commonly used puppets, and they feel a certain sense of accomplishment in its construction.

When asked what art means to them, Kammeraad said, “Art to me is: figuring out a way to get the ideas in your head created in a tangible form where people can perform, see, hear, connect, or discover it."

Haveman, reflecting on art and the ArtPrize experience said, “I think art is the concept of being able to look at anything around you and realizing that it has merit. To improve or effect your life in some way. Brick, landscape, gardens, all of it’s art.  There’s a lot of descriptors that define art, but art itself is anything that influences you as a person. That’s what I think it is.”

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