In 1998 Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles began collaborating on pageant puppetry commissions for New York’s Village Halloween Parade. Gathering around them an ensemble of artists, stage technicians, performers, and other volunteers, they called themselves Superior Concept Monsters, and inherited a pageant arts tradition that went back to the origins of the renowned event, when Ralph Lee first brought out his giant puppets on Halloween Night in 1973. With the support of VHP artistic director, Jeanne Fleming, SCM has continued to expand the scope of their work, while maintaining strong community roots through local Puppetraisings, open workdays when hundreds of volunteers come together to work, eat, and collaborate on a single artistic goal.
In 2002, SCM began transplanting the Puppetraising process to other locales and events. Starting with a small nearly-abondoned village in rural Italy, they used local folklore and ritual traditions as a starting point to create pageants that brought together local residents with international participants. A decade later, Morinesio Midsummer Pageant is now a much anticipated annual ritual, a self-supporting event that has brought national attention to the once-marginalized region’s Occitan culture.
Following up on the success of the Italy project, SCM continued to seed new site-specific pageant traditions in locales ranging Texas to Trinidad, in the process earning a Fulbright Fellowship to Trinidad and a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Artists and Communities Grant for their work for First Night in Binghamton, NY. Eventually, Alex and Sophia decided to form a non-profit organization to further their mission to use processions as a means for communities to reflect upon, preserve, and interpret the defining aspects of locality. In 2005, Processional Arts Workshop, Inc. was born, with a broad set of goals that include creating a permanent artist residency for teaching and practicing the arts of procession, developing published resources for creating pageants, and continuing to expand and develop their own work in pageant puppetry.