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Arts Eclectic turns the spotlight on happenings in the arts and culture scene in and around the Austin area. Through interviews with local musicians, dancers, singers, and artists, Arts Eclectic aims to bring locals to the forefront and highlight community cultural events.Support for Arts Eclectic comes from Broadway Bank.

'Telling a slow story': 'Remembering Wilma Rudolph' will unfold over a month at the Carver Library

Heather Jarry

“It takes a lot of patience,” says artist Heather Jarry about her newly honed skill of carving wooden puppets. She’s been working in puppetry for years, but this form of puppet-making is more intricate and labor-intensive than the work she’d done in the past.

“There's a lot of detail,” she says. “It's a very meticulous, slow art form, and I like that. It's kind of like the slow food movement, like keeping a slow art form alive. Ironically, the project itself is gonna be similar in that it's a telling a slow story over a month.”

She’s describing her new multimedia art project Remembering Wilma Rudolph, which will use puppets, paintings, and written and spoken text to tell the story of the famed Olympian, who overcame scarlet fever and polio to become a world-renowned track-and-field star. It’ll be on display at the Carver Library for the month of July, unveiling as a sort of super-slow-motion puppet show, as the story is updated every day.

“Each day I will set up a scene to illustrate the story that I'm telling, which is about Wilma Rudolph,” Jarry explains. “I will have the text written out in sections for each day to read, kind of like a storybook. And I will also have a recording of the story that you can access by a QR code and listen to.” The recordings will be available in English (narrated by Chelsea Manasseri) and Spanish (narrated by Khattie Quinones) and there will also be a story quilt by folk artist Suzette Boston on display as part of the project.

For Jarry, Remembering Wilma Rudolph became a way to connect with her father in a couple of ways – through the subject matter and the medium she chose to work in. “My dad ran in the Texas Relays around the same time, in the sixties, here at UT,” she says. “And that's something I grew up sharing with him and that we still go to today. I Look forward to that event every year. And my dad is a woodworker, a fine woodworker in Austin. And I get to share that with him and work in his woodshop [to create the puppets].”

Since the show will change slowly – one update a day for a month – Jarry is aware that many people won’t get to see the entire project in person. “Probably just the staff [of the library] are the ones that are gonna actually see the show every day,” she says. “You know, it'll be like going to an art show. Maybe people will come just to experience it for a day or two. But you will be able to follow it on social media on Instagram or Facebook. So I will take a picture of the text and the scene each day and post it. So anywhere you are – anywhere in the world that you have access to those things – you can follow along every day.”

Still, she does hope people will go and see it in person. “Just visiting the Carver Library – [it’s] a really gem place to me,” she say. “It's my neighborhood library and my daughter grew up going there with me and I used to do puppet shows there. They have a really wonderful collection of artwork that people have donated and it's hanging all around the library. There's a lot of hand carved wooden masks and objects and dolls and some quilts. And I think my puppets will be in really good company there.”

'Remembering Wilma Rudolph' will be on display throughout the month of July at the Carver Library.This project is supported in part by the City of Austin Economic Development Department.

You can also follow the project on Jarry's Instagram and Facebook pages.

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces and hosts This Is My Thing and Arts Eclectic, and also produces Get Involved and the Sonic ID project. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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