Library’s History Funhouse Brings Back Wayne-O-Rama

  • Tuesday, July 25, 2023
The Shaking Ray Levi Society and The Chattanooga Public Library will present History Funhouse: The Wayne-O-Rama Story. The new exhibition opens this Thursday and showcases three-dimensional puppets created by artist Wayne White for his 2016-2017 Wayne-O-Rama installation in Chattanooga.

Visitors will experience the puppetry of Wayne White – including puppet heads, full-size puppets and prototypes – and learn the creative process and historical context of each one through a series of narrative panels and contextually related local history artifacts and archival materials from the CPL history collections. 

Historical figures include Frieda Carter, Luther Masingill, Adolph Ochs, John Ross, Sequoyah, Bessie Smith, Mary Edwards Walker, Nancy Ward, Emma Rochelle Wheeler and more.

Mr.
White, a Chattanooga native, is known for his word paintings, mixed media and his work in set and puppetry design for music videos and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Wayne-O-Rama was created as an homage to the history of Chattanooga and attractions like Ruby Falls, Rock City and the former Confederama that celebrated the history. 

In a 2016 interview with Bitter Southerner, Mr. White said, “This will be like a history of Chattanooga as seen through my eyes and my sensibility… I love the romance of it. I love the characters.”

“You can certainly see the love,” says Jessica Sedgwick, head of CPL’s Local History and Genealogy Department. “The bold colors, sparkling eyes, and expressive layers bring each of these historical figures to life. We hope that through Wayne’s artistic lens, more people will come to know and connect with these amazing pieces of our shared past.”

Bob Stagner, SRLS founding member and steward of the puppets since 2017, is thrilled to bring the figures to light again. “We searched for a partner to continue the story after we wrapped up Wayne-O-Rama, but certain factors didn’t line up and then the pandemic hit. I figured one day, the right person would call,” said Mr. Stagner. “Wouldn’t you know it, it was the public library.”

In the spirit of the original Wayne-O-Rama exhibition, there will also be a variety of immersive, interactive, fun and collaborative experiences. 

Upcoming events include:

- Thursday, July 27
Opening Reception
Location: Downtown Library, 3rd Floor
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.
Come get the first look at History Funhouse while you enjoy hors d'oeuvres, refreshments and remarks from some of the artists and exhibition supporters.

- Saturday, Aug. 12
Workshop #1: Primary Source Research for Creative Projects
Location: Downtown Library, 3rd Floor
Time: 2-3:30 p.m.
Jessica Sedgwick, head of Local History, will show you how to find and use historical sources for creative projects.

- Friday, Aug. 25
Meet & Greet with Wayne White
Location: Downtown Library, 3rd Floor
Time: 6:30-8 p.m.
Come meet the man, the myth, the legend... Wayne White.

- Saturday, Sept. 2
Workshop #2: It’s Alive! Constructing the Artist with Matthew Dutton
Location, Downtown Library, 4th Floor
Time: 2-5 p.m.
Beloved artist Matthew Dutton will lead a workshop to reconstruct the body of a full-size Wayne White puppet. Come for the whole afternoon, or drop in for an hour.

CPL has also partnered with Jennifer Crutchfield and National Parks Partners. Ms. Crutchfield originally created interactive learning experiences for Wayne-O-Rama and now conducts similar activities with NPP. A schedule of weekly and bimonthly programs for K-12 students will be released soon. 

For more information about the exhibition, visit chattlibrary.org/history-funhouse.
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