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Published: Jul 17, 2014
Diane Houk Puppetry Arts InstituteThe Girl Scouts brought more than cookies to Diane Houk. Through an outing to the Hazelle Rollins Puppet Factory in nearby Kansas City, the organization also sparked Diane's lifelong passion for the art of puppetry.

As an adult, Diane became an advocate for puppet-making and puppeteers. In fact, she gave Paul Mesner-now a big time entertainer-his first public gig at the opening of the Sermon Center right here in Independence.

Together, these two enthusiasts formed the Puppet Guild in Independence. One day Goodwill called the Guild to offer up "several boxes" of donated puppet parts. The several boxes turned out to be a full 18-wheeler flatbed trailer from the now defunct Hazelle Rollins Puppet Factory. (Chills!)

After the Hazelle Rollins windfall and a grueling effort to raise $10,000, the Guild opened The Puppetry Arts Institute in the Englewood Arts District in Independence in October 2000. The idea behind the Institute is to create a place that kids know is made just for them from the moment they walk in the door.

Today, The Puppetry Arts Institute hosts kindergartners from all over the metro area to make their own puppets and enjoy a show-usually performed by Diane and her Hazelle Rollins puppets. Yes, you can call her the puppet master. She kind of likes it.

The Institute is also open daily to introduce people to the art of puppetry and inspire the next little Diane Houk.