Our History


Alessandra Ogren, a Wise Fool NM founder performing in Chiapas, Mexico, Photo by Jaime Smith, 1997

In 1997 artists from Wise Fool Puppet Intervention in California joined with Clowns Without Borders and New Mexico based artist/activists to bring a puppet circus tour to Zapatista villages in Chiapas, Mexico. Inspired by this collaboration, a small collective of women artists began offering hands-on experiences in puppetry and circus arts as a vehicle to build community and promote social justice. Thus Wise Fool New Mexico was born. Out of garages and in old horse corrals we built grassroots circuses, giant puppet processions and taught our first summer circus camps. Now a beloved and award-winning non-profit organization at the center of Santa Fe’s performing arts scene, Wise Fool serves 2,000 youth with hands on activities and 14,000 audience members annually with high-quality experiences built upon our enduring core values of community, arts accessibility, and social justice.

Where does the name “Wise Fool” come from?

In medieval times, advisors to the kings were often unable to address controversial matters without fear of retribution. However, the court jester, or “wise fool,” could draw upon disarming spectacle and humor to inform the views of those in power. Over the past sixteen years, Wise Fool has been utilizing this “back door”approach to opening dialogue in otherwise touchy situations in the creation of productions about social issues such as censorship, water rights and land use, domestic violence, immigration and borders.

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