Officials at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Midtown Tuesday announced details on its renovation and expansion plans.
The project, set to be completed in the first six months of 2015, 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 visitors.
It will add 15,000 square feet to the center, which is currently 64,000 square feet. Jennifer Walker, a center spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday the expansion will cost $14 million, with all but $8,000, via a grant from Fulton County, paid for through private donations. A capital campaign, Believe in Make Believe, has begun to raise those funds.
The center is the nation’s largest nonprofit dedicated to the art of puppetry, and 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.
In 2007, Henson’s family announced a momentous gift of puppets and props to the center. About 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 his office and a television studio.
“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”, said Bonnie Erickson, executive director of The Jim Henson Legacy. “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. He was inspired by his world travels just as the world has been influenced by his creativity. 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.”
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!”
The center will remain open during the renovation and expansion. Information on supporting the Believe in Make Believe campaign is available by visiting www.puppet.org/BelieveInMakeBelieve.