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Artist Spotlight: Molly Allis


Hi Molly! Can you tell us a little about you and your background?

I am an East Coast native. I grew up in Boston, and then moved to New York City when I was 18, where I studied directing and design for theater at NYU. 3189 When I was there, I got really into puppetry as an artistic form of storytelling. I spent time working with the Bread & Puppet theater in Vermont, which is a social justice theater company that makes large-scale puppets and pageants. They make most of their puppets with paper mache and cardboard. It was there that I developed my love for making things out of cardboard and recycled materials. I also worked back then with Great Small Works Toy Theater in Brooklyn, and discovered my love of tiny worlds, and the telling of stories through them. I am also a musician--I play the drums, guitar, and I sing. I moved out to Los Angeles about six years ago to go to CalArts for graduate school, where I studied Integrated Media and Experimental Sound Practices. I have always been an interdisciplinary artist, working in several different mediums. I used to think it was a problem that I didn't just do one thing, but I have come to embrace that I just love making things in all forms!

Who were your role models and inspirations when you were a kid? As an adult?

As a kid, I loved shows like Pee Wee's Playhouse: the combination of colorful, fun pop art, animation and puppetry was so magical to me, and still is. I also loved books by Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Tomie dePaola, Roald Dahl, and countless others. As an adult, I love artists like Noah Purifoy, Keith Haring, Jan Svankmajer, Basquiat, and art made by children.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. I used to make elaborate pictures as a kid with my sketchbook and markers in my bedroom--lots of cartoons and illustrations. I also loved performing and putting on "radio shows," where I'd hold my Mom hostage on the couch and sing the entire soundtrack of The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast into an invisible microphone. As a teenager, I wanted to be a playwright or film director, and wrote a lot. I have a love for storytelling, which merged with my love of visual art. The combination of these things eventually led me to make installation art, create immersive environments for people to have magical experiences in.

What are your favorite things to use to make art?

Definitely cardboard. But I love working with all kinds of recycled materials, found objects, wood scraps and paint. And just color in general. Having lots of colors near me when I'm creating is usually a must.

Can you describe what an average day is like in the life of an artist?

There isn't really an average day for me--I'm always working on a variety of different projects. My days are often a combination of working on my own art projects, collaborating with other artists and musicians, and teaching art and music to kids. They all feed off of each other, and they all enrich my life in so many amazing ways. This week I'm in Hudson, New York, teaching a week-long cardboard workshop to kids, collaboratively making a giant cardboard city. It's so much fun, and so inspiring to see the kids learning and growing so much every day. I'm also about to start rehearsals for a futuristic feminist puppet show directed by Susan Simpson, who teaches at CalArts, and helps run an experimental puppetry space in Chinatown called Automata Arts.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in art?

Pursue your dreams, and at the same time remember to allow your art to be something that is fun for you! As an artist, it can sometimes be easy to put too much pressure on what you are making--wondering if it's good enough or important enough to exist in the world. Create art because it nourishes you, inspires you, brings you joy, makes you feel free, and connects you with yourself. I remember that lesson all the time from working with kids, who are the best artists.

What kind of art do you enjoy experiencing?

I love experiencing art that is playful, dynamic, engaging, and sincere. I also love art manages to communicate profound messages in really simple ways.

You are going to join Kidspace for ArtNight Pasadena. What will we get to see and do while you are there?

I will be teaching a workshop on creating your own "glow in the dark" hanging diorama boxes out of cardboard and recycled materials, in conjunction with an installation I will have up at Kidspace. I'm really excited to be working with Kidspace for this event!

In our Storyteller Studio “everyone has a story to tell”… we get a chance to share our stories, and one of the ways we do that is by sharing our favorite books. What was your favorite book growing up?

That's a tough one! I think my one of my favorite books growing up was Eloise by Kay Thompson--I read it so many times before bed each night. I also loved Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber. I love so many children's books, I still read them and get inspiration from them as an artist.


Anne Pierce, Art Specialist, has been with Kidspace Children’s Museum since 2010. She participated in the Master Planning committee and assisted in the development of the Imagination Workshop. As a theater professional Anne has worked for the Walt Disney Resorts, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Sid & Marty Krofft. Anne is currently serving on the board of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry.