Meet Gerald — Tacoma’s 15-foot tall Ambassador of Awe

Jason Holland shares a small Tacoma flat with a big roommate.

Gerald, as he is called, is always in the way, has a habit of staring and doesn’t say anything.

At least he doesn’t raid the fridge.

Gerald is a marionette, a puppet whose arms and legs and facial expressions are controlled by strings.

But in Gerald’s case they are more like ropes.

Gerald is 15 feet tall.

Tacomans can see him Sunday for the first time when Holland, who created Gerald, will unveil him at Art on the Ave, the annual art and music festival on Sixth Avenue.

Gerald has no race or nationality. No political affiliation. He doesn’t march for any cause.

He might be French, but Holland isn’t sure.

So, why did Holland create him?

“Awe. Straight up awe,” he said. “I want them to be amazed.”

Holland’s calloused hands and muscular arms indicate his day job: construction.

He’s also an artist working in acrylic, clay sculpture and drawing.

Those paths led him to Gerald.

Gerald isn’t the first huge marionette Holland has made. In 2014, he built one for the Downtown Block Party in Opera Alley.

Technical difficulties left that one lifeless.

It’s all been a learning experience, Holland said.

“It was a trial and error,” he said. “And I would say a majority of that was error.”

He taught himself to sew. Even the big and tall clothing sections don’t get this big and tall.

Holland found a tuxedo jacket and then expanded it. He also created a king-size top hat for the marionette.

Not counting Gerald, it’s been a solitary experience for Holland.

“I didn’t have any models, so I used my own face as a model,” he said.

Gerald bears little resemblance to Holland. The marionette has a yard-long mustache and green eyes the size of softballs. Yes, they blink.

Gerald’s mouth opens to reveal a full set of teeth and a tongue. Inside the head and body are metal straps, eye hooks and carabiners.

Holland made Gerald a participatory experience for festival goers.

He is constructing a scaffold and an armature for the ropes that will attach to Gerald’s arms and legs. Holland will operate Gerald’s facial movements, but anyone can walk up and get Gerald to wave or make him give a small kick.

“I think it’ll be a kick in the pants,” Holland said.

Just pull a rope.

After Art on the Ave, Holland will take his marionette to Music and Art in Wright Park on Aug. 12.

Look for a very large man and his smaller companion.

“I do this,” Holland said, “because I love my town. I love where I grew up.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor


Holland’s GoFundMe page: gofundme.com/build-gerald

Art on the Ave: on6thave.org/art-on-the-ave/