0209 Spring Arts Visual Art
Image: Alan Hunter

Muppet Man

Cheryl Henson was 15 years old when she and her 16-year-old sister Lisa spent a summer at a television studio working with professional puppet builders and designers. The spirited crew of singing fruit-stand produce they helped create ended up on TV bopping through a rendition of “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” So goes an upbringing with the man behind The Muppet Show.

Cheryl is now president of the Jim Henson Foundation, which teamed with the Smithsonian Institution and other organizations to create a traveling exhibit about her father—the beloved director, artist, producer, and most celebrated puppeteer of our time.

You can enter Jim Henson’s Fantastic World at the Experience Music Project in May. To walk among the collection’s 138 items is to stroll through a restless, driven mind. Puppets, storyboards, videos, sketches, and designs—some dating back to Henson’s high school days—trace the evolution of Kermit, Big Bird, Elmo, and the others. It’s an expansive tribute to a talent who moved far beyond even the inviting confines of Sesame Street. —Christopher Werner
May 23–August 16, Experience Music Project, 206-770-2702; more info

"People do not necessarily know [Henson] was a filmmaker and animator. Also, collaboration was very important to him. It was important to him not to settle into the Sesame Street look or to settle into the success of the Muppets. People will learn a lot about my dad’s other interests. —Cheryl Henson, Jim Henson Foundation president

“We really wanted people to get inside his creative thinking. If you walk through and you look at his drawings—which are pretty simple—you might say, ‘Oh, well, I could make one of those, I could do that.’ People do get energized watching his work. It’s not just entertainment—it’s also inspiring.” —Karen Falk, Jim Henson Legacy board member and Jim Henson Company archivist

“What you see in the exhibition is everything from the first idea to the first drawing to the finished drawing to the three-dimensional objects to the animated three-dimensional objects to the full-blown film. People can see in one space the entire process.” —Deborah Macanic, Smithsonian’s Traveling Exhibition Service project director and exhibit developer