|About Peter Schumann
Peter Schumann’s puppet shows began on a neighborhood scale on New York City’s Lower East Side in 1963. The concerns then were rents, rats, and a police force that was more threatening than protecting. Puppetry offered a way to broach these subjects with grace and humor. Offering tasty sourdough rye bread to the audience didn’t hurt either. The symbolism of bread, in a culture starved for meaning, is obvious. And delicious. And thus, Bread and Puppet was born.
In 1970, Peter Schumann moved Bread and Puppet to Vermont, eventually landing in the town of Glover. A piece of farmland there has served as the troupe’s home base ever since. Glover was the birthplace of Our Domestic Resurrection Circus. This two-day event became a summer ritual for thousands of Vermonters. The circus incorporated political skits, concerts and a touch of vaudeville.
Over time, Bread and Puppet’s shows have grown in scale and complexity. The paper-mâché puppets have gotten larger, eventually towering over their audiences. The shows have also incorporated more and more volunteer actors, thrilled at the chance of taking part. Under Peter Schumann’s tutelage, many hundreds of young people have been trained in the arts of puppetry, dance, and theater.
As the productions grew, so did the scale of the issues they addressed. One notable example was described by journalist Holland Cotter in the New York Times (Aug 5, 2007):
… In 1982, Bread and Puppet led a nuclear freeze parade in New York City during the United Nations sessions on disarmament. Mr. Schumann brought some 250 masks and puppets from Vermont, rounded up and trained thousands of volunteers, and in just a few days organized one of the most spectacular pieces of public theater the city has ever seen.
Titled “The Fight Against the End of the World,” it was an epic in three stages that included figures with stars for heads, crimson-and-black imps swarming around a figure of death on a skeletal horse, and a tableau of white birds and a blue ark in full sail. In the midst of it, Mr. Schumann himself appeared in a red-white-and-blue Uncle Sam outfit, perched atop sky-high stilts, dancing to a ragtime tune.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined Fifth Avenue, rapt, quietly beaming; many wiped their eyes. They had been given a gift, an image of affirmation on a tremendous scale.
One of Peter Schumann’s life-long objectives has been to democratize art, to make it accessible to everyone, not just the well-to-do. In New York, where theater tickets can cost hundreds of dollars each, the working class is effectively shut out. Bread and Puppet addresses this problem with free performances, like in the days of Shakespeare.
Peter Schumann has also pioneered the concept of cheap art, challenging the notion that art is intrinsically valuable and therefore exclusive. Peter paints on recycled cardboard and sells his paintings at prices that a common person can afford. He prefers that his art is ephemeral. The paper-mâché masks he makes for Bread and Puppet will eventually turn to dust. They were created for one purpose and are not intended to have an intrinsic value of their own. Peter calls the barn where the masks are displayed, the Museum of Impermanence.
A communitarian and pacifist, Peter Schumann has made a point of addressing a wide range of social and political issues with his puppetry and art. It should come as no surprise that his work is controversial to some and music to others. That’s the nature of the space he occupies. However, there is no denying that his work serves as a catalyst for conversation. And isn’t that one of the critical functions of art and literature?
It is with great honor that we present the 2018 Herb Lockwood Prize to a true Vermont treasure.
On June 13th, 2018, Peter Schumann received an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia University in Montreal. He is also the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship.
More about The Herb Lockwood Prize
Modeled on preeminent national awards in various disciplines, there is no application process, and artists do not know they are being considered for the Prize. The award selection committee remains anonymous. Nominations are provided by a network of arts advisors, located throughout Vermont.
The Herb Lockwood Prize includes a minimum of $5,000 from Herb Lockwood’s family, plus additional funds donated by the public each year, making it the most generous annual arts award in the state of Vermont. $10,000 has been raised for the 2018 Prize. BCA is honored to administer this prize created through the generosity of private donors.
Herb Lockwood was an inspirational figure in the Burlington arts and music scene in the 1980’s. His impact on the region’s arts and artists has proved to be enduring and profound. The breadth of art forms he practiced, and his influence on other artists in all manner of disciplines, created a legacy that remains inspirational decades later. The Herb Lockwood Prize seeks to recognize a person of comparable creativity and influence.
The purpose of the Prize is to validate the work of the recipient, to energize that artist’s future, to encourage other artists to work ambitiously and to honor Herb Lockwood’s memory by continuing his inspirational influence.
For more information about the Prize, please visit www.HerbLockwoodPrize.org
About Herb Lockwood
A native of the Adirondacks, Herb Lockwood moved to Vermont in 1982. He gained recognition in a breathtaking variety of art forms: cartooning, painting, writing, woodworking, sculpture, storytelling and tai chi.
Above all, Herb Lockwood was a masterful musician. Formally trained on classical guitar, his musical inclinations knew no bounds—whether adapting ancient Irish jigs to a baritone bouzouki, creating a new vocal twist on an old standard, or ripping out riffs on a jazz guitar. The trademark of his work in all cases was discipline and fastidious attention to the craft of the highest standards.
Those standards proved to be magnetic. His Burlington home became a gathering place for artists of all kinds. Young people came to him for instruction; older people declared that he had started them singing again after years of silence.
It must be said, however, that Herb Lockwood was also full of the unexpected. He was a connoisseur of the inside joke and loved whimsy. He specialized in finding comedy in darkness and the mundane. But behind his humor and modesty lay immense talent and even greater compassion. Herb was a loving man, and his art was but one form of his love. Herb Lockwood died in a Burlington workplace accident in 1987 at age 27.
The Herb Lockwood Prize is an essential part of Burlington City Arts, celebrating over 30 years of supporting the artists, which is dedicated to the promotion of excellence, experimentation, and education in all forms of contemporary art.