Artist Community Login Donate


Connect with us

ArtStarts in Schools Logo

April 07, 2017

Puppetry is Elementary: Creative Spark Vancouver

Creative Spark Vancouver and Emerging Artist John Walsh

For John Walsh, the Creative Spark Vancouver grant was an opportunity to expand his art practice in new directions. Not only did he explore working with a new age group, he also branched into a new creative medium. He received a very positive response and gained insight into where he might take his art practice next.

Creative Spark Vancouver grants for emerging artists are funded by the City of Vancouver and disbursed by ArtStarts. The next deadline to apply is April 21, 2017. Read on below for more information.


Hi John! Can you tell us a bit about your project?

My project idea was to show Grade 1 students the fun of puppetry, from the basic principles of performance to building your own with character creation in mind. We practiced movement, lip-synching and performance rules and then we constructed our own puppets.

Who participated in this project? Why did you choose to work with this community?

I was the only presenter for this project. I was able to set up the class at Trafalgar Elementary with the Grade 1 teachers there through my booking agent (for music), Kim Thé. Her daughter attends Trafalgar and the dates we arranged worked with everybody's schedule.

Have you ever worked with young people before? How did you find this experience?

I have worked with older kids teaching them guitar, but I have never worked with kids this young before—and I've never taught a puppet class either! It was a very positive experience. We had a lot of fun!

How did workshop participants respond to your project?

I found the kids to be very receptive to everything, but especially the performance portion. The puppet building portion was a little more challenging because it was more time-consuming, as well as there were some physical elements the kids had a harder time doing, like gluing, folding, etc. However, almost all of them completed their puppets in time.

What motivated you to apply for a Creative Spark Vancouver grant?

My booking agent, Kim Thé, works with ArtStarts quite a bit as she books children's entertainers and she recommended the program to me. Puppeteering is a profession that I hope to get more and more involved in and this seemed like a good start.

How has this project and the Creative Spark Vancouver grant impacted you personally as an emerging artist?

It has made me realize that I need more experience when it comes to performance—and also that I love the performance aspect of it! I came into this grant as a puppet-builder who wants to spread the fun that I get out of puppet-building, but now I find myself looking for more avenues to perform.

How has this Creative Spark Vancouver project built your confidence and ability to engage with young people?

I have a 6-year-old son who is easily engaged with my puppets at home so it was nice to know that most 6-year-olds are pretty much the same! I know now that going into another situation like this I'll be less worried about what will engage them because they really want to participate!

Has your Creative Spark Vancouver experience led to any other exciting opportunities or community relationships?

The project was rescheduled a few times and I only finished the final class yesterday, so it's too soon to say if any opportunities will come directly out of this, but I talked with the teachers who were quite pleased with the classes and I believe if I came to them with another proposal they would have me back.

What opportunities can best support emerging artists and help them to thrive

Grants programs like Creative Spark Vancouver are a huge motivator for artists like myself. Through my booking agent I was able to connect with other ArtStarts grant recipients to talk about their experiences with the program and it was very positive.

What''s next for you as an artist?

I recently built and performed two puppets for a kids' show that a friend of mine is trying to get made. We filmed a three-minute pitch video for the show that will be presented to stations like YTV, CBC, Treehouse, etc. I have also been working on filming a puppet improv show where my puppets chat candidly with kids between the ages of 6 to 10. There's some great material there!

Thanks, John!

April 21, 2017 is the next deadline to apply for Creative Spark Vancouver grants! Grants of up to $2,000 are available for emerging artists of any age in any artistic discipline who are residents of the City of Vancouver, or residents and members of the Musqueam, Squamish or Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Learn more and apply today at

Social Sharing

Past Stories