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Discovering the Portland Puppet Museum

Half-hidden behind trees in an 1880s Sellwood former grocery building, the museum is one of the few in the nation dedicated to preserving the art, history, and pleasures of all things puppetry.

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Portland Puppet Museum, exterior photo, 2024.
Portland Puppet Museum, 2024.


Text and Photographs by K.B. DIXON


The Portland Puppet Museum is one of those endearing oddities that thrive in quiet places and keep this city interesting. It sits in Sellwood half-hidden by trees at the corner of Southeast 9th Avenue and Umatilla Street. Housed in a building that was Campbell’s Grocery Store in the 1880s, it is one of a few museums in the country dedicated to preserving the art and history of all things puppetry.

Founded, owned, and curated by Steven Overton with his life and business partner Marty Richmond, the museum opened as part of The Olde World Puppet Theater in 2012. It offers a rotating series of exhibitions culled from a collection of more than 2,700 puppets from more than 30 countries.

Sponsor

Seattle Opera Pagliacci

An art-school graduate and a certified Master Puppeteer at age 22, Overton is an amiable and animated man with an encyclopedic knowledge of this ancient form of storytelling—an art form that according to the phantom scribes of Wikipedia dates back to the 5th century B.C. He understands puppeteering the way Herman Melville understood whaling, and his expatiations on the subject are similarly expansive. He has designed and built puppets for more than 50 years—puppets used on television, in local productions, and in live stage shows from Broadway to a “major Florida theme park.”

The current exhibition that runs through the end of July is titled “Fairy Tale and Television Puppets” (in September it will be “Women of the 18th Century”). In addition to the exhibitions, the museum offers theater performances, assorted workshops, and educational outreach programs.

The Portland Puppet Museum, at 906 S.E. Umatilla St., is open year-round, Thursday through Sunday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

Pinocchio, 2024

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Tin Man, 2024

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Sponsor

Washougal Art & Music Festival

Witch, 2024

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Jolly Hase, 2024

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Big Bad Wolf, 2024

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From Artist Martha Banyas, 2024

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Howdy Doody, 2024

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Bear, 2024

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Panda, 2024

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Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

Steven & Lion, 2024

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Queen, 2024

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Exhibit, 2024

Steven & Big Bad Wolf, 2024

Building History, 2024

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Photo Joe Cantrell

K.B. Dixon’s work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and journals. His most recent collection of stories, Artifacts: Irregular Stories (Small, Medium, and Large), was published in Summer 2022. The recipient of an OAC Individual Artist Fellowship Award, he is the winner of both the Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Eric Hoffer Book Award. He is the author of seven novels: The Sum of His SyndromesAndrew (A to Z)A Painter’s LifeThe Ingram InterviewThe Photo AlbumNovel Ideas, and Notes as well as the essay collection Too True, Essays on Photography, and the short story collection, My Desk and I. Examples of his photographic work may be found in private collections, juried exhibitions, online galleries, and at K.B. Dixon Images.

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