Jim Henson Foundation showcases importance of funding puppetry at Ballard Institute event

The next event in the Puppet Forum Series, titled American Puppet Modernism: the 20th Century, will take place on March 1 at 7 p.m. (File/The Daily Campus)

The Puppet Forum Series at the Ballard Institute had its first event of the Spring 2018 semester, highlighting the work and patronage of the Jim Henson Foundation.

Nurturing New Work for Puppet Theater: the Jim Henson Foundation was co-hosted by Foundation President Cheryl Henson, Foundation Manager and UConn puppetry alum Lindsey Briggs, Leslee Asch and Richard Termine.

Cheryl Henson, daughter of famous puppeteer Jim Henson, began the event by providing a brief history of the Jim Henson Foundation. Cheryl Henson described how her mother and father, who met in puppetry class, worked hard to create their own style of puppetry and revolutionize the medium. After being involved in the world of puppet arts for quite some time, Jim Henson decided create the Jim Henson Foundation.

The foundation was created as to help develop young puppeteers by giving them the opportunity to apply for grants. According to the presentation, the foundation looks for “new works of excellent contemporary live puppet theater.” Over the years, the foundation has awarded over 800 grants to artists, ensuring that puppeteers have an opportunity to showcase their work.

“One of the primary reasons was to encourage American artists to raise the bar, to create work that would be on par with the kind of work that was being presented in Europe,” Cheryl Henson said.

Wishing to showcase puppetry from around the world, the Jim Henson Foundation was also responsible for creating and curating puppet festivals from 1992 to 2000. Over this eight-year span, the foundation had five festivals, 136 productions, featured artists from 31 different countries across 24 theaters throughout New York, according to Asch.

After everyone in the audience had a basic understanding on what the foundation did and who they were, Briggs discussed the types of grants given out by the Jim Henson Foundation and described the application process.

According to Briggs, the foundation had given approximately $2,445,000 worth of grants to artists from 1983 to 2018. Artists can apply for a Production, Workshop or Family grant. Each grant has a different monetary value and covers the varying stages of development for a piece of puppet work.

“I am very interested in developing my own work and I wanted to hear about how stuff like this gets funded and what kind of work they’re interested in,” second-semester puppetry arts graduate student Maggie Flanagan said. “I also was really interested in seeing what else they’ve funded because I am looking to expand my horizon as far as viewing and consuming puppetry as well.”

The presentation ended with Termine sharing some of the photographs he had taken over his years alongside Jim Henson and the foundation. Termine’s photos took those in attendance through the workshop and puppetry making process, providing them rare insight into the world of puppetry. His photographs also documented some of the beautiful performances funded by the Jim Henson Foundation over the years, showcasing the hard work and artistry of the puppeteers.

The next event in the Puppet Forum Series, titled American Puppet Modernism: the 20th Century, will take place on March 1 at 7 p.m.


Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.