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Featured Artist: Andy Furgeson aka Red Yarn

Andy Furgeson aka Red Yarn

This week’s featured artist is none other than Andy Furgeson, aka Red Yarn: a one man (and sometimes band) of music, puppets, and forest creatures fun. An Austin, TX native and YA Roster artist since March 2011, this fall Red Yarn went full time as a teaching artist and can be found performing at schools, libraries, and community centers 5+ days a week.

(Look for his full schedule on the Red Yarn website and find his YA artist page here). In January 2010 Andy repurposed the Artclash Fun-A-Day project into Lomax-A-Day: choosing learn, record, and write about one song a day from Alan Lomax‘s 1960 Folk Songs of North America Anthology. Listen to and read from the archive of Andy’s writings and recording on Lomax-A-Day.

How does Oregon inspire your art making? In many ways. First, I’ve learned so much from the incredible community of musicians and artists I’ve found here, inspiring me to make my living by making art. Also, my creative process changes with Oregon’s seasons. In the winter and early spring I spend more time hunkered down, slowly generating new songs, puppets, and show ideas. In late spring, summer and early fall, I am out in the world, performing, collaborating, and letting the sunshine refuel my creative energy. Finally, Oregon’s natural landscape inspires my vision of the Deep Woods, the imagined world where all of my puppet characters live, where all of the animals from American folksongs coexist.

Red Yarn Puppet Town

If you could be any animal, what would you be? A rabbit. My first elaborate puppet, who continues to be the star of my shows, is a trickster rabbit. He’s the grandson of Br’er Rabbit and a distant cousin of Bob Dylan. Sometimes I forget where his character stops and I begin.

What is one of your earliest art memories? I remember participating in an incredible summer camp when I was about 6. We made papier-mache masks and adapted a Native American folktale into a play for our families. That potent combination of folklore, 3D art, and performance clearly stuck with me, as it’s now the formula for my work through Red Yarn Productions with folksongs and puppetry.

What’s the best thing about being a Young Audiences teaching artist? Besides the obvious–the privilege of working with children and educators across the region–I really appreciate the professional development opportunities. YA supports my growth as a teaching artist by connecting me with other professionals, hosting salons and trainings, and encouraging me to observe other teaching artists at work.

Red Yarn puppet in the works

Why is art important to kids? It’s easy to feel powerless as a kid. I certainly remember that feeling. But art is power in the hands of a curious child. You can create your own universe where you have complete control and freedom. But it’s not all fantasy. Making art helps children build skills that can bring them great success later in life–self-expression, creative thinking, communication in groups, the list goes on.

What artist was inspirational to you as a kid? Who is your art hero now? When I was a kid, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were my heroes. I wanted to live in the worlds they created with their movies. These days my art heroes are Pete Seeger and Jim Henson. Seeger’s lifelong commitment to reinvigorating American folklore through singing; Henson’s gentle way of using puppetry to make the world a more joyful, compassionate place.

Check out this video from Red Yarn Puppet Band and  if you like what you see (or for those who like their puppet music with cheese and sauce), come to Mississippi Pizza this Halloween for a 5pm show featuring family friendly ghost stories, haunted American folksongs, a giant skeleton, and critters in costumes.


Thanks Andy!

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