» Bart Buch
How did you become an artist?
I started out as an elementary teacher but slowly transitioned to an artist in poet form. While I was teaching and living in Vermont, I took my class to see a puppet show and the idea to be a puppeteer was born. There was a poetic magic that I had never seen that affected me and my students. Vermont has many puppet companies and I was exposed to the world of puppetry through Sandglass Theatre and Bread and Puppet Theatre. I moved to Minneapolis for a few reasons; partially to come back to the midwest, the strong LGBT community, and I also had heard about In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. Soon after I moved back, I quit teaching and started volunteering with Heart of the Beast, eventually joining Americorp to work at the theatre full time. It was a perfect medium for the poet, the teacher, and the introvert in me. It was a vocation or calling sort of thing. I’ve never really looked back or questioned this choice. I love working with puppets, poetry and kids.
What inspires you?
Music and poetry drive my creative process. Both are intergral parts of my work. Helping people, kids and adults, find confidence in their self-expression through art inspires me. I am inspired by helping people believe in themselves, their voices and helping the “make believe” actually happen. There’s a lot of healing and community building that happens in the work my community does through the lens of puppetry and everything that it is made up of.
Why is art a tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world? How have you used art to do that?
Puppetry is a unique tool for helping people speak out for a couple of reasons. One, the puppets usually do most of the speaking out which gives a soft focus on the person and lets people hear the message a step removed from the speaker in a more nuanced way. For some of us with slow brain to mouth connections, it allows many more ways to say things so that the audience can hear a mulitdimensional message, a mixture of visual image, sound, and movement. This allows for feeling and intuition to enter the message and speak out to the mystery and poetry that is all around us but ignored often. Second, puppetry is made up of painting, sculpting, voice, music, writing and more so there are many access points that appeal to different people for different reasons. Years ago, with Intermedia Arts as my fiscal sponor and cheerleader, I started a queer youth puppetry program called Puppet Camp OUT. We explored issues important to queer youth through different puppet forms over several months and created a puppet show that we toured throughout the Twin Cities, and created a documentary of the process. I saw youth really explore personal meaning and identity through their work, finding their voices and speaking out strongly to a world that does not often listen to these particular voices. Besides reaching the world with their voices, they also bonded and created a small supportive community that keeps in touch years later.
“I am inspired by helping people believe in themselves, their voices and making the “make believe” actually happen.”
- Bart Buch
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
One way was as a cheerleader and fiscal sponsor for Puppet Camp OUT. Intermedia Arts was the place I premiered Ode to Walt Whitman. I chose it because I felt safe and supported. It was the perfect venue for the show, physically, socially and organizationally. Every time I have interacted with Intermedia as an artist, I have felt valued and respected, felt my voice matters to them and matters to the community they serve. This treatment has been an important gauge in the world for me to compare to, how different origanizations take care of the artists they work with. They uphold an ideal for respect in the local and national art world. As an audience and community member, I feel transparency, equity and friendliness balanced with professionalism.
What is one of your favorite experiences with Intermedia Arts?
I was in the audience for Queertopia and loved every single act in the show. There was a lot of queer love in the house that night. It felt so welcoming to so many expressions and simply made people feel happy and safe, which queer people need more of.
Bart Buch has been creating, directing, designing performing and teaching puppetry for 20 years. He focuses on interpreting poetry into puppetry arts performances (called puppet poems) and seeks to convey poetry through evocative puppet movement, visual imagery, few spoken words, and an enveloping musical language. He has presented several independent puppet shows working with the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Wendell Berry, Dar Williams, Rumi and others, as well as his own poetry. Bart recently presented his puppet poem Mortal City, inspired by a song of the same title by Dar Williams, at the International Puppet Festival in Chicago last January. He is a Staff Artist and Education Director at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre.