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Sunday, June 9, 2013


CBAS gatherings are always enjoyable, but our much anticipated June 8 field trip to the Vent Haven Museum exceeded everyone's expectations. Vent Haven, in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, calls itself "the world's only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism," and 20 CBAS members spent the afternoon exploring one of Greater Cincinnati's true hidden treasures.
Curator Jennifer Dawson (back row, left) was wonderfully generous with her time, taking the group through each of the museum's three main buildings, sharing a wealth of information about the history of the art and the museum's founding, introducing us to a few of the 800 ventriloquist's dummies that bring the museum to life, and then allowing us to stay to photograph and sketch. The field trip was the first step in a CBAS collaborative project to create an exquisite corpse book this fall based on images inspired by the visit to Vent Haven.

Most of the figures were new to us, but a few old friends—among them Charlie McCarthy, Lambchop and SeƱor Wences—greeted the group as well. In what may be the first CBAS sing-along, the whole group spontaneously burst into "N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle's makes the very best choc'late" when Jennifer pointed out Farfel the dog sitting high on a shelf.
The Vent Haven Museum was the life's work of William Shakespeare Berger (1878–1972), a Cincinnati businessman who on a trip to New York in 1910 impulsively bought and then promptly lost interest in a dummy he later named Tommy Baloney. Years later he remembered the forgotten figure and began to learn the art of ventriloquism. After he retired in the late 1940s, Berger devoted his energies to acquiring figures for his collection and serving as President of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. The revenue from a trust Berger established continues to maintain the museum today. In July, Vent Haven will again host the annual ConVENTion that brings over 400 amateur and professional ventriloquists from all over the world to the area and to the museum.
Many, many thanks to curator Jennifer Dawson for her time, expertise and hospitality. Our field trip to Vent Haven has been a highlight of the year, and great inspiration for our collaborative book.

Thanks to Janice K. for sending along this information and photos.

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