Beginning November 25 until December 31 of 2021, the Salmagundi will present Bil Baird and Olga Felgemacher : A Narrative Legacy, offering a peek behind the curtain of one of America’s most important circles of puppeteers headed by Bil Baird, and their wide ranging influence on American culture, film and TV. The exhibition is heightened with the addition of the work of living puppet master Olga Felgemacher, Baird’s longtime collaborator. Felgemacher shares her insights on Baird, as well as her own original characters and artistry.
Bil Baird [RA 1982-1987] was an active and memorable member of the Salmagundi Club from 1982 until his death in 1987. Baird, who began his career under famous illustrator and originator of the Macy Parade Balloons Anthony “Tony” Frederick Sarg (1880-1942), went on to create more than 3,000 original puppets, participate in more than 400 TV and film productions, as well as write books and perform on Broadway. He is likely best known for his creation of several iconic advertising and early TV show characters as well as his production of “The Lonely Goatherd” puppet show sequence from the 1965 film The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews.
Olga Felgemacher spent nearly ten years with Baird, after the death of Baird’s wife and collaborator Cora–a highly talented puppeteer in her own right–where she starred in every production at the theater, bringing to life characters written for her by such show business luminaries as Sheldon Mayer Harnick (b.1924) and Joseph “Joe” Guilherme Raposo (1937-1989). After Baird closed up shop, Olga accepted a long-standing invitation from James “Jim” Maury Henson (1936-1990) to join his Muppets, where she spent a year on Sesame Street & puppeteered in the first Muppet Movie. Felgemacher, along with her partner and husband Craig Marin began their own performing company called Flexitoon, where they design, build and perform puppets and marionettes for television, film and stage, including Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel and Shining Time Station (also starring George Carlin and Ringo Starr) on PBS. Flexitoon is currently in production with a famous rock band for a wild immersive puppet theater experience launching Fall, 2022.
The show will feature a once-in-a-lifetime collection of Baird and Olga’s artistic creations side-by-side with Olga’s Pinwheel and Shining Time puppets. Bil Baird and Olga Felgemacher : A Narrative Legacy will feature two galleries devoted to the analysis of the design elements of Baird and Felgemacher’s characters. Two galleries presenting a Baird/Felgemacher timeline, a fifth gallery charting the two puppeteer’s influences on other puppeteers and pop culture, and a final sixth gallery previewing the future of puppetry. In the grand parlor of the Club, Olga & Craig will give several multi-media gallery talks examining before, during and after the nexus of the Baird/Felgemacher collaboration. Stories will be shared, video and slides unveiled, and maybe even some puppets will spring to life! [Dates TBA].
In connection with the show, the Club and Museum will present books from Bil Baird’s private collection donated to the organization providing insight into what the artist read. Baird was an avid musician and performer. He donated his favorite little red piano to the Club’s bar where it has remained to this day and will be re-dedicated to the artist. The bar will be dressed with Baird Ephemera including playbills, show posters, publicity photos, original drawings and more.