Close this search box.

Opening Reception The Calling: The Transformative Power of African American Doll and Puppet Making

Opening Reception The Calling: The Transformative Power of African American Doll and Puppet Making

City Lore Announces Landmark One of a Kind Exhibition

The Calling: The Transformative Power of  African American Doll and Puppet Making

Celebrating elder visual storytellers who chronicle the history, identity and culture of their communities

October 6, 2023 – March 3, 2024

Curator Camila Bryce-Laporte & Consulting Scholar Phyllis May-Machunda


MARKET DAY, OCTOBER 7, 2023, 12 Noon – 6PM *Artworks for Sale

*Exhibit Includes Children’s Corner, Public Programs & Workshops


City Lore, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and a pioneer in Urban Folklore programming is pleased to announce the launch of a new exhibition entitled, The Calling: The Transformative Power of African American Doll and Puppet Making. 

“The Calling: The Transformative Power of African American Doll and Puppet Making,” is conceived and curated by Camila Bryce-Laporte, (a noted doll maker herself) in partnership with scholar Phyllis M. Machunda. This exhibition includes dolls and puppets created by a group of 26 nationally acclaimed multi-media artists from the African Diaspora, who came of age in communities in the United States during the height of the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements. Using mixed media, these visual storytellers chronicle the history, identity, and culture of their communities. Compelled or “called” to continue the special and enduring tradition of Black doll making, these artists recognize that their works are healing and transformative for themselves and for the communities they represent.

Organized into historic themes, the site-specific installation, also contextualizes the art as well as the art makers themselves, and includes videotaped conversations with the artists about their personal histories, the communities from which they emerged, their creative processes, and the transformative and spiritual power of their creations. The exhibition is appropriate for all ages and is supported by public programs, workshops, and a market day and is . 

The exhibition is one of the inaugural projects of City Lore’s Cultural Ambassadors Residency Program, supported by the Institute for Library and Museum Services (ILMS).

“Rich with symbolism, all the artists have stories to tell, “ said Bryce-Laporte. “Each one of the 26 artists in the show was asked to create work that weaves a 400-year legacy into a multi-layered tapestry of expression.”Furthermore, as a group these artists defy the conventional
notion of dolls and puppets. We use our gifts and create as the spirit leads us.”

“City Lore,” says Founding Director Steve Zeitlin, shares curator Camila Bryce Laporte’s deep interest in African American history and culture. The Calling, an exhibit about Black dolls made by hand, with needle and thread, the softness of cloth, and the playfulness of puppetry, speaks to City Lore’s abiding passion for the art of everyday life.”

Participating Artists include: Kibibi Ajanku, Kay Williams Anderson, Judy Boldon Bain, Diana Baird N’Diaye, James Brown, Jr., Camila Bryce-Laporte, Karen Y. Buster, Kimberly Camp, Schroeder Cherry, Tracey Marlené Connor (photographer), IBé Crawley, Gloria Gammage Davis, Julee Dickerson-Thompson, Shimoda Donna Emanuel, Laura R. Gadson, Francine Haskins, Geraldine “Jeri” Hubbard, Ingrid Humphrey, Aundra McCoy, Sehar Peerzada, Paulette Richards, Elaine Robnett Moore, Imani W. Russell, Yolanda Sampson, Cynthia Sands, and Paula Whaley.

About the Curator Camila Bryce-LaPorte is a folklife specialist and community scholar who works with people to help them rediscover the value of their history, their cultural traditions, their community, and themselves through the art of cultural documentation. She trains people to capture and preserve the history of and traditions of their community and their culture bearers. Bryce-LaPorte has worked on folklife-related projects for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, City Lore, and Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance.

About the Scholar – Dr. Phyllis M. May-Machunda is a folklorist/ethnomusicologist who has spent her career researching and bringing attention to absent narratives from communities of color. Prior to teaching for 30 years in Minnesota, she was employed as a folklorist/curator in Smithsonian’s Office of Folklife Programs and as a researcher for Smithsonian’s Program in Black American Culture. Earning her MA and Ph.D. from Indiana University’s Dept of Folklore, she is curator of several multicultural exhibitions, including the online Notable Folklorists of Color for the American Folklore Society (2019, 2022), and author of numerous articles. May-Machunda is editor of the book accompanying this exhibition for City Lore Gallery.

About City Lore Gallery – The City Lore Gallery is a cultural hub that celebrates New York City’s vibrant cultural atmosphere and provides a platform for the myriad voices that comprise the City. The gallery presents exhibitions and events on all the things that make New York “New York.” From the golden age of graffiti, to endangered languages and activist comics, City Lore finds the art in everyday life. City Lore works in four cultural domains—urban folklore and history, preservation, arts education and grassroots poetry traditions—and is committed to the principles of cultural equity and democracy.

About City Lore – Founded in 1986, and now an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, City Lore’s mission is to foster New York City – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs. We document, present, and advocate for New York City’s grassroots cultures to ensure their living legacy in stories and histories, places and traditions. We work in four cultural domains: urban folklore and history; preservation; arts education; and grassroots poetry traditions. In each of these realms, we see ourselves as furthering cultural equity and modeling a better world with projects as dynamic and diverse as New York City itself. For more info:

City Lore is made possible with generous support from: Institute of Museum and Library Services, New York State Council on the Arts. New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Sherman Foundation, Lily Auchincloss Foundation


Oct 06 2023


6:00 PM - 9:00 PM


City Lore
56 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003

1 thought on “Opening Reception The Calling: The Transformative Power of African American Doll and Puppet Making”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top