ATLANTA - Kermit, Bert, Ernie, Zoe and Big Bird will soon have a new place to hang out.
The Center for Puppetry Arts officials, along with members of the Henson family, announced details on the organization’s highly anticipated renovation and expansion plans Tuesday.
The project, set to be completed in 2015 at a cost of $14 million, will include a new museum with a Global Collection, and the world’s most comprehensive collection of Jim Henson’s puppets and artifacts. Project highlights also include a new library and archival space, a renovated entryway and many other upgrades to existing spaces that will ultimately enhance the experience for Center for Puppetry Arts’ visitors.
“We are thrilled that the Center for Puppetry Arts is able to expand their facilities to house this amazing and comprehensive collection of Jim Henson’s work, as well as the work of artists across the globe,” Bonnie Erickson, executive director of the Jim Henson Legacy said. “Jim Henson saw puppetry as an art form that engaged people of all ages and all cultures. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the center, its mission and its position within puppetry’s international community. The center’s new museum presentations and exhibits will make it possible to experience his contributions to the world of puppetry and to share the power of his art, his imagination and his positive view of life with generations to come.”
As the nation’s largest nonprofit dedicated to the art of puppetry, these updates will allow the organization to continue to touch even more lives through the art of puppetry while giving guests a new appreciation for the global scope and universal power of the art form. As part of the project, the Center is protecting and preserving hundreds of international and Henson treasures for future generations to explore and understand.
A couple members of the Henson family were in Atlanta for the announcement.
"It was a very creative household that we lived in," Lisa Henson told wsbtv.com's Nelson Hicks. "We didn't play with the puppets. You know people sometimes say, 'Oh was our house full of the Muppets' and it wasn't, but we did all get an education in the puppetry and in the world or production. And in addition to that, we just at home had a really creative atmosphere, whether we were making fantastic Easter eggs or Christmas ornaments or the most amazing carved pumpkins. My father plunged into those family projects with as much creative excitement as he dedicated to his productions."
In 2007 Jim Henson’s family announced a momentous gift of puppets and props to the Center for Puppetry Arts. Approximately half of the expanded museum space will be dedicated to the Jim Henson Collection, which will feature recognizable puppets from Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal and Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. Featured icons will include Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Big Bird, Elmo, Grover, Bert, Ernie and many more. Henson’s prolific imagination will be traced chronologically throughout the interactive exhibit, transporting visitors through environments that typified the master puppeteer’s world such as Jim’s office and a television studio.
"I learned not only how to puppeteer, but so much about being a person, a good person, from Jim Henson," Fran Brill told wsbtv.com. Brill has been the principal puppeteer of Zoe for years. "He was an amazing man, a fabulous employer, though he never made you feel like he was the boss. He was just one of us. I'm forever grateful for that amazing connection. Congratulations to Atlanta for celebrating him."
A celebration of puppetry traditions in major cultures from around the world, the Global Collection will occupy the remainder of the exhibit space. Highlighting the history of puppetry in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, this collection will also demonstrate the use of the art form as a teaching, healing and communications tool. This gallery will be organized by continent with artifacts displayed within rich contextual backdrops alongside additional materials to help showcase varying artistic and cultural styles.
“This is a historic time for the Center for Puppetry Arts,” said executive director Vince Anthony. “Since Kermit the Frog and Jim Henson cut the ceremonial ribbon opening our doors in 1978, the Center’s goal has been to create a world-class experience for our guests, where they may learn more about the celebrated art form of puppetry and ultimately become inspired to create their own art. Over our 35-year history, we have grown to present award-winning productions and workshops, as well as reaching out through emerging technologies to be able to present to audiences across the world. Now with these physical changes to our facility, along with the new puppet exhibits and our expanded puppetry research library, our museum will truly reflect our vision for the future of the Center, allowing our patrons the chance to gain a deeper appreciation of puppetry’s past, its impact on today’s cultures and its influence on the art of tomorrow. We would never have been able to reach this milestone without the support of numerous donors, friends, colleagues, volunteers and audiences; thank you for helping us Believe in Make Believe!”