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Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

Husband-and-wife team Jessica Grindstaff and Erik Sanko of Phantom Limb Company tell us about their new project and their top places to go with daughter Freya.

  • Photograph: Liz Clayman

    Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

    Jessica Grindstaff, Erik Norse Sanko and baby Freya at the Phantom Limb Company studio

  • Photograph: Liz Clayman

    Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

    Jessica Grindstaff, Erik Norse Sanko and baby Freya at the Phantom Limb Company studio

  • Photograph: Liz Clayman

    Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

    Jessica Grindstaff, Erik Norse Sanko and baby Freya at the Phantom Limb Company studio

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

    FAVORITE CHILDREN’S SHOP
    Honey in the Rough (161 Rivington St at Clinton St; 212-228-6415, honeyintherough.com) was a women’s clothing store on the Lower East Side that recently turned into a kids’ clothing and toy shop. It’s impeccably curated and so beautiful. They have brands there we haven’t seen in New York before.”

  • Photograph: Luciana Golcman

    Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

    FAVORITE RESTAURANT
    “We love to bring Freya to our local diner, The Square (33 Leonard St between Hudson and Varick Sts, 212-925-7188). We had our first breakfast date there 15 years ago—it’s so sweet to take our baby with us now after all these years. Freya even had her first pancake at the restaurant!”

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

    MUSEUM
    “We have a friend who works at the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St; 212-769-5100, amnh.org), so we’ve taken Freya inside before they open in the morning. We saw the “Bioluminescence” show when she was only three weeks old and her eyes were just developing—what a great time.”

  • Photograph: Ilenia Martini

    Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

    FAVORITE GREEN SPACE
    “We spend a lot of time walking around outside. There are so many beautiful parks downtown that are always filled with kids and have dynamic designs. Teardrop Park (Warren St at Murray St, batteryparkcity.org) is especially incredible.”

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

    FAVORITE RT OUTING
    “We go to Chelsea with Freya for gallery days. The spaces we visit are often child-like and are home runs for Freya. We love David Zwirner (519, 525, and 533 W 19th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves; 212-727-2070, davidzwirner.com, and 537 W 20th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 212-517-8677)—they always have such an interesting roster of artists.”

Photograph: Liz Clayman

Family Portrait: The Sanko-Grindstaff Family of Phantom Limb Company

Jessica Grindstaff, Erik Norse Sanko and baby Freya at the Phantom Limb Company studio


The sophisticated marionettes you’ll see at a Phantom Limb Company production (recent shows in NYC have played at BAM and HERE Arts Center) are a far cry from the colorful felt creatures you might expect from a puppet show—after all, Phantom Limb was born in the minds of veteran artists Jessica Grindstaff and Erik Sanko. The two formed their company in 2007 following the success of their first collaboration, The Fortune Teller (Jessica does the set design while Erik makes the marionettes), and they’ve been putting on shows ever since.

While most of their work—think more Tim Burton, less Jim Henson—has been aimed at adults, the husband-and-wife team is now mounting their first children’s show, Ballerina Swan, with Making Books Sing; it runs through November 9 to 24 at Theater 3. “We hadn’t seen a lot children’s theater, but we found this story sweet and not dumbed down for kids,” says Erik. “At the time [the opportunity arose], I was pregnant, so we thought if there were ever a good time to start work on a kids’ project, now would be it,” says Jessica.

As you may expect, their daughter Freya, now 1, is culturally connected well beyond her young age. She’s been attending gallery openings since she was weeks old, and her parents make a point of entertaining her with experiences rather than with electronics. “She has her whole life to be attached to screens. Now’s the time to relish touching, smelling and tasting. As a result she’s a phenomenally present little girl,” says Jessica.

Scroll through our slide show, above, to see the family's favorite restaurants, museums and more in the city.


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