Community Engagement

Out and About in Our Community

Wise Fool giant puppets with the mayor of Santa Fe.

By making stiltwalkers, giant puppets, and entertainers available for community events and activist efforts, Wise Fool helps to increase the visibility of local organizations working to improve our community. Wise Fool carries on the long tradition of using spectacle and street theatre to raise awareness, attract media coverage, and heighten audience engagement in social and activist efforts, as historically utilized by other companies including Bread and Puppet Theater, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, and Wise Fool Community Arts in California.


This year Wise Fool puppets, stiltwalkers and circus artists both youth and adults have visually supported:

Million March Against Child Abuse, Kitchen Angels, Camp Corazones, One Billion Rising, Chainbreaker Collective's Elephant in the Room Campaign focused on housing equity, Bernie Yard Art Sign Making, Indigenous Queers Plus, CCA Render Bender, City of Santa Fe Easter Event, Pancakes on the Plaza, Healthy Fun Days at Thomas Ramirez Elementary and Camino Real Academy.. just to name a few!


Photo by Kate Russell.

An annual springtime program of Wise Fool since 2010, Ignite provides an opportunity for individuals, families, and organizations to create giant puppetry and street art that responds to our world.


Photo by Joshua Sage
Photo by Joshua Sage

In years when IGNITE is run, Wise Fool offers two to four weeks of free workshops, guiding community members in the creation of giant puppets and street art that reflect both struggles and visions around a social issue chosen in a public forum. Dialogue is sparked between strangers over wheat paste and newspaper, and diverse community members of all ages and backgrounds - families, adults, teens, indivduals, organizations - work as a team to create something larger than themselves. The resulting creations, from whimsical to thought-provoking, are carried by their makers in an outdoor community celebration. Spectators are treated to a colorful menagerie reflecting dozens of diverse artistic reactions to the chosen issue!



Ignite 2012: Occupy Possibility worked to help support the Occupy Movement in envisioning "the world we want". 

Wise Fool hosted two community brainstorms a month of community puppet builds to prepare for the event itself.  People of all ages and backgrounds came together to design, build, and paint puppets of all shapes and sizes, banners, signs, and all manner of marvelous curiosities were constructed around the theme of 'occupying possibility'.  This community worked together to visualize and create an overall theme, which the program directors fashioned into a loose script.

On April 28th, a group of over 40 volunteers came together to heft giant puppets, don their costumes, and strap on their stilts for this amazing event.  The parade departed amid great fanafare and wild music from Samba Fe, worked it's way through the Santa Fe Farmer's Market, and arrived at the Santa Fe Railyard Park.  

Here, the performers met with organziers and set up for an audience of roughly 200.  Amy Christian narrated a wonderfully recieved performance about overcoming the memes of Scarcity, Consumption, and Apathy.  The main characters were lured in by a slick Salesman and a giant media puppet, and were covered in material goods, even while they were being herded by monsters in the shape of fear and security.  A water dragon led a 'die in' of all of nature's creations, helping to 'wake up' our main cahracters, who began to question what was going on.  The act of questioning immediately drove away the media and Salemen and their pets.  One by one, Scarcity, Consuption, and Apathy were debunked and the characters were liberated.  The performance culminated in giving deposits to the Bank of the People, which gave out Seeds of Possibility seed packets to audience members.  With the help of the Railyard Stewards, we encourages the audience to venture out on their own and create new gardens and new connections.  Afterward, Wise Fool offered a free buffet of food and a puppet making workshop to the elated crowd.


Ignite 2011 was dedicated to support Santa Fe’s iMatter March led locally by Earth Care’s Youth Allies. The iMatter March, a global youth march on climate change, took place on Sunday, May 8.

In preparation for this event Wise Fool met with Youth Allies leaders to help create a unifying visual theme for the parade and to help them transform their voices into larger-than life puppets, stenciled tshirts, and colorful signs and banners. Wise Fool artists led free drop-in “builds” where families, teens, adults, and elders worked together to create art that “pumped up the visual volume” on the youth voice of our community. The builds offered an open space to learn, make, share, and take part in creating giant puppets, props, stencils, banners, and street theatre. Wise Fool provided materials, tools, skills, and support. And in the end, the parade was a blast, as the powerful and colorful cohort of youth and their allies marched down the sidewalks of two of Santa Fe's largest roads, Cerrillos and St. Michael's, garnering honks and yells from the hundreds of passing cars. Wise Fool was thrilled to be able to use our annual IGNITE event to support such an amazing undertaking by powerful Santa Fe youth!



Ignite 2010: Raising Truth in the Streets celebrated International Workers Day and Wise Fool's 10th anniversary. Four public workshops culminated in a public procession and pageant on May Day 2010. Over 60 giant puppets were brought to life by 250 adults, teens, and kids, dancing along the procession route through the crowded Farmer’s Market to the music of Samba Fe. Hundreds of spectators then filled the Railyard Park to watch the giant puppet pageant, performed by 50 community members. The pageant featured an "awesome world" full of youth and environmental creations; a 6-foot corporate person head with live-action eating mouth, and arms bearing the words “borders” “greed” “apathy” and “war”; a contingent of giant puppet activists and leaders such as Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, Emma Goldman, Aung San Suu Kyi, Amy Goodman, and the Dalai Lama; and finally a 20-foot tall "All of Us" puppet raised triumphantly as a finale, where audience members pinned paper hearts and hands on which they’d written their vision for a better world.

Circus Comes to School

Circus Comes to School at EJ Martinez

Circus Comes to School, our in-school program, partners with teachers through arts, PE, and dance pathways to reach a broad section of at-risk and underserved youth in Northern New Mexico.


Wise Fool is currently bringing Circus Comes to School programs into EJ Martinez Elementary, Ramirez Thomas Elementary, Camino Real Academy, Carlos Gilbert Elementary, Ortiz Middle School, and Capital High School.

To learn more about how circus can come to YOUR school, please contact Ilana Blankman at

Partnership with Peñasco Theatre Collective

Photo by Kate Russell.

Wise Fool New Mexico and the Peñasco Theatre Collective are happy to announce a new phase in their artistic journey. Over the past 15 years, under the organizational title of Wise Fool New Mexico, collaborating artists and performers have been working at the Peñasco Theatre, in the Santa Fe studio, and in programs and performances both nationally and internationally.  Diverse artists and collaborators have come together to create the visions and scope of both Wise Fool New Mexico and the Peñasco Theatre Collective, each with their specific strengths and interwoven histories.



The Peñasco Theatre Collective is a group of artists and collaborators working closely together through the years in both organizations, evolving to meet the specific needs of the Peñasco region, and will now be carrying out programming under its own auspices. The 2016 Peñasco Theatre Collective Summer Youth Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop and the Teen Multidisciplinary Arts Workshop both in Peñasco, will continue as a collaborative project of Peñasco Theatre Collective and Wise Fool New Mexico.  Future collaborations will continue on a project basis. For further information about the Peñasco Theatre Collectiveplease click here.

Links to Partner Organizations

Theatre Santa Fe

Past Community Projects

Youth from Miami project.
The Walking Tall Project - Miami Artist Residency 2004 - 2008

Wise Fool collaborated with the Carnival Performing Arts Center in Miami, FL from March 2004 - August 2008. This collaboration, in the form of a circus and physical theatre residency called the Walking Tall project,provided a wonderful opportunity for Wise Fool to share our experience with underserved urban youth.

Each spring, Carnival Performing Arts Center and Wise Fool provided a five-week series of circus and physical theatre workshops throughout various communities in Miami-Dade County for youth and adults. All children’s workshops culminated with a big-top circus performance in which all participants took part. 

For children, the workshops included introductory, intermediate, and advanced stilts classes for ages 7-12; trapeze, hoop, and acrobatics classes for ages 7-15; clowning classes for ages 5-12; and juggling and puppetry classes for ages 8-15. Classes met twice a week for two-hour sessions.

Wise Fool also helped to advance the skills of a local improvisational troupe, the Urban Disturbance. This group was established by the Miami Performing arts center in the hopes of bringing awareness to their new facility in downtown Miami.



Vivos Entre Los Muertos 2001- 2004

For four years Wise Fool collaborated with El Museo Cultural, Warehouse 21, and the Museum of International Folks Art to celebrate and honor the many cultural traditions of the Fall into Winter Season. Thru the years this included a wide and every changing array of events and hands on activities free to the public including  Giant Puppet Workshops for adults and families, Halloween Parades, Dia de los Muertos Gatherings with altars and performances, Original Performances by local artists in the Railyard area , Maskmaking workshops at the Youth Development Center with resulting artwork displayed in El Museo's gallery, and Participatory Processions and Hands On Artmaking on Museum Hill. Hundreds of local folks came together year after year at the workshops and events, to share in celebration of this time when the veils between the worlds of the living and dead are thin. In creation of these events  Wise Fool collaborated with many local organizations including, Trust for Public Land, Warehouse 21, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, Outside In, Girls Inc., Gerards House, and POCAF.

Over our history Wise Fool has consistently taught workshops and brought giant puppets and stiltwalking characters to life in support of many local celebrations produced by other organizations including: All Species Day, Santa Fe Children's Museum Birthday, The Earth's Birthday Project, IAIA Museum Children's Day, La Voz Festival de las Americas, and many more.


Challenge New Mexico Circus for Developmentally Disabled Adults 1998 - 2001


In an effort to offer a fun, personally satisfying and educational outlet for the visions and perceptions of the mentally and physically challenged and to expose the general public to their fresh and creative world, Wise Fool New Mexico and its artists have been working with developmentally disabled adults through the arts programming of Challenge New Mexico since 1998.

From 1998-2001 Wise Fool artists worked with the participants at Challenge to create giant puppets, shadow puppets, props, sets, songs and scripts for seven original theatrical pieces. During this time Wise Fool was also instrumental in the creation and artistic direction of a weeklong summer intensive theatre arts camp for adults with developmental disabilities. In the summers of 2000 and 2001 Challenge Performing Arts Camp drew participants from across the state and culminated in full-length performances at the Greer Garson Theatre. The Challenge Theatre group also performed their works at local cultural events such as the La Voz Festival of Latino Arts and The Snowball Cotillion.

Their theatrical works included:

  • Tales under the Full Moon—original fairy tales. Spring and winter 1999
  • Circus Bizurkus—collaboration with members of the One Railroad Circus. Winter 1999
  • Weaving a New World—original plays and songs for the new millennium. Spring 2000
  • Elements—summer camp production of original dance, theatre and song. Summer 2000
  • Dream On—shorts and songs of dreams come true. Winter 2000
  • Blue Velvet Meets Elvis—a short musical play chock full of Elvis Impersonators. Spring 2001
  • Seasons—summer camp production of original dance, theatre and song. Summer 2001


Fools Without Borders 1997 - 2000

Chiapas, Mexico: Artists from Wise Fool collaborated with Clowns without Borders on two delegations to Chiapas, Mexico. The first delegation was in 1997, which involved members of Wise Fool Puppet Intervention (the San Francisco-based organization out of which Wise Fool New Mexico grew) and Chaos Collective. Called "Circo de Manos," this was a delegation of thirteen women and a child. In a 1973 school bus, this circus traveled to Chiapas, and performed a revolutionary circus tale in autonomous villages and refugee encampments. Two years later, in 2000, the second delegation included artists from Wise Fool New Mexico and involved seven women and a small circus dog. This delegation performed a puppet circus and led several workshops in giant puppet building. More information about Wise Fool artists in Chiapas can be found at  For additional information about Chiapas, visit