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“Ralph Chessé: A San Francisco Century” Epic Puppet Celebration (SF Main Library)

Saturday, May 18, 2024 - 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm | Cost: FREE
San Francisco Main Public Library | 100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Free / Learn More

Immerse yourself in the world of Ralph Chessé, a prolific artist who made a lasting impact on the Bay Area arts and theater scene, at the opening reception for the world premiere of Ralph Chessé: A San Francisco Century including never-before-seen artworks and puppets from the children’s television show Brother Buzz

The program starts with the San Francisco Puppeteers Guild meeting, which is open to the public. Then, join exhibition curator Glen Helfand on a guided tour of the exhibition; watch a demonstration of different puppet styles with local puppeteer Fred C. Reilly III; hear about Ralph’s life and work from Bruce Chessé, Ralph’s son and collaborator; and mingle with friends over light snacks and live music by Kitten on the Keys in celebration of the life and legacy of this San Francisco legend. Jewett Gallery is open during library hours.

Co-presented by the San Francisco Bay Area Puppeteers Guild.

Ralph Chessé Opening Program and Reception
Saturday, May 18, 2024 | 1-5p
San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium, Lower Level, 100 Larkin St., SF


  • 1 PM Auditorium: Puppet Guild Meeting – open to the public
  • 1:30 PM Jewett Gallery: Tour with Exhibition Curator, Glen Helfand
  • 2 PM Auditorium: Puppet Demo with Fred C. Reilly III
  • 2:45 PM Auditorium: Bruce Chessé in Conversation with Marisol Himmel
  • 3:45 PM Koret Lobby: Reception with Live Music by Kitten on the Keys

EXHIBITION DATES (May 16 – Aug. 18, 2024)
Can’t make the opening celebration on May 18th? The exhibition is free and open to the public through August.

Ralph Chessé: A San Francisco Century
On view May 16 – August 18, 2024
San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Jewett Gallery, Lower Level

Make a puppet inspired by Ralph Chessé: A San Francisco Century. During his long and prolific career, Ralph Chessé produced a wide range of artworks, most notably marionettes, which he created for productions of plays – Eugene O’Neill and Shakespeare were favorites – and his beloved children’s television series, Brother Buzz. Learn how to construct a simple puppet using string and other materials with local artist and arts educator Ramon Abad.
– Saturday, July 20, 2024 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room, Lower Level

Receive free admission to visit the WPA mural painted by Ralph Chessé at Coit Tower on Friday, August 16, 2024 10 a.m.-6 p.m.. This is a one day only deal; be sure not to miss the opportunity.
Coit Tower, 1 Telegraph Hill Boulevard, San Francisco

Ralph Chesse, Early Children’s Television Pioneer

Born of Creole heritage in New Orleans in 1900, Chessé spent the bulk of his life as a working artist in San Francisco, contributing to and representing Bay Area culture. His work is prominently featured amongst the murals in Coit Tower placing him in the midst of Depression-era public works; he staged puppet shows at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island; and starting in the early 1950s, was the main creator of Brother Buzz, a long-running and beloved animal-themed educational children’s show still fondly remembered by Bay Area residents. All the while, Chessé made a wide variety of works, including paintings depicting the 1960s rock and roll scene. Ralph Chessé: A San Francisco Century offers an overview of the artist’s work, including rare puppets, paintings, woodcuts, photographs and documents that highlight his unique and under-recognized place in the City’s history.

Following is a section devoted to Chessé’s Coit Tower fresco and his activities during the WPA era. During this period, he served as the State Director of Puppetry for the State of California, and staged puppet shows for the Federal Theater Project, with some rare footage of his Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on Treasure Island during the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.

The show includes puppets created for his productions of Shakespeare, Eugene O’Neil’s The Emperor Jones. As part of the exhibition, the SFPL produced a facsimile of a puppet theater based on the artist’s sketch.

Brother Buzz may be Chessé’s best-known achievement. The children’s show ran on KPIX from 1952 until 1966 with the Brother Buzz character serving as a guide through the animal kingdom. Chessé created new puppets weekly for the show.

Learn more at sfbapg.org

Disclaimer: Please double check event information with the event organizer as events can be canceled, details can change after they are added to our calendar, and errors do occur.

Cost: FREE
Categories: *Top Pick*, Art & Museums, In Person, Kids & Families, Lectures & Workshops, Live Music, Sponsored, Theater & Performance, Walks & Tours
Address: 100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Saturday, May 18, 2024

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