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Nana Projects takes 'final bow' in Roland Park

Parade school and stiltwalking studio to close as founder Molly Ross moves to Florida

By Larry Perl, lperl@tribune.co

9:15 AM EDT, July 17, 2013

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Nana Projects, the parade arts studio off West Cold Spring Lane in Evergreen that stages stiltwalking events, puppet shows and an annual parade school that draws people from around the world, is closing its doors at the end of the summer, founder Molly Ross announced Monday. 

Ross, who founded Nana Projects in 1993 in Wisconsin, said she is moving to Florida to be with her family.

She was best known as organizer of the longtime annual Great Halloween Lantern Parade, in Patterson Park, which was one of the biggest Halloween events in the region. She bowed out of that project in 2011.

Nana Projects, which promotes itself on its website as a "Baltimore-based company of visual alchemists creating parades and puppet shows," invited staff, board, volunteers, past interns and friends to a series of conversations in December 2012 about Nana Projects' future, Ross said in an email titled "Nana Projects' final bow."

"Several projects seemed to be finding natural conclusions and it was gratifying to watch seeds we had sown grow into exciting new things, both in Baltimore and beyond," the email says. "Having largely accomplished what we set out to do 20 years ago, and with doors opening on new endeavors, closing now feels like a positive step, the right thing at the right time."

"The most amazing people have walked into the studio and become part of the programs — the parades, the stilt walking, the puppet shows and the workshops," she wrote. "Seventy-five interns from all over the country worked with Nana Projects over the years. We took our role as mentors seriously and watched many evolve; some returned to work with us and others moved on to their own adventures. We've collaborated with hundreds of incredible artists, performers, musicians and organizations in Baltimore and across the country."

Ross and longtime collaborator Annie Howe are now archiving and storing "the most iconic of Nana Projects' costumes, parade objects and puppetry work," and Ross will continue to be the trustee of those items, which may be pulled out for special appearances.

"Never say never, right?" Ross wrote.

She also promised future collaborations, "just not under the name Nana Projects," and said that free stilwalking workshops citywide are planned to continue as a self-sufficient program with Howe as the organizer.

Ross wrote that she will take a six-month sabbatical starting in November and then relocate to Key West, where her husband is director of the Studios of Key West and her daughter is starting fourth grade.

In the meantime, Nana Projects will continue putting on summer events and Howe will teach a "parade school Jr." for the American Visionary Art Museum's summer camp in downtown Baltimore, Ross wrote..

Ross could not be reached for comment.