Exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum celebrates the creative vision of Jim Henson

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Exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum celebrates the creative vision of Jim Henson
Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street. Photo: Nat Seymour.



GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.- The Grand Rapids Art Museum is presenting The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited, with presenting support from PNC Bank. Organized by the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), the traveling exhibition will remain on view through January 14, 2023. The traveling exhibition is a version of MoMI’s ongoing The Jim Henson Exhibition, which is on view at its home in New York City. 

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited is a dynamic new visitor experience exploring Jim Henson’s groundbreaking work for film and television and his transformative impact on popular culture. This comprehensive exhibition reveals how Henson and his team of builders, performers, and writers brought to life the enduringly popular worlds of The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and much more. It also includes material from Henson’s experimental film projects and his early work, presenting him as a restlessly creative performer, filmmaker, and technical innovator. 

“This expansive retrospective exhibition will be fun and fascinating across all generations,” commented GRAM Director Dana Friis-Hansen. ​“Imagination Unlimited celebrates the breadth of Henson’s creativity through original artifacts — including puppetry, animation, acting, inventing, and filmmaking — and reunites us with his much-beloved cast of characters, including Kermit, Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy, and the Cookie Monster.” 

The exhibition features a broad range of artifacts related to Henson’s unparalleled career, including more than 20 puppets, character sketches, storyboards, scripts, photographs, film and television clips, behind-the-scenes footage, iconic costumes, and interactive experiences that allow visitors to try their hand at puppeteering on camera and designing a puppet character. 




Imagination Unlimited takes visitors on a journey through Jim Henson’s creative life, from the moment he borrowed two library books on puppeteering as a high school student in the 1950s to his first successful television show Sam and Friends, and on through the characters and stories that left an indelible mark on popular culture,” added GRAM Associate Curator Jennifer Wcisel. ​“The show contains an impressive collection of storyboards, concept sketches, and behind-the-scenes footage that offers a look at Henson’s deep imagination and technical innovation in film and television.” 

Imagination Unlimited begins with a brief look at Henson’s early life through images of Henson as a young man and reproductions of some of his early drawings and sketches, and then follows his steady rise and immense contributions to the art and industry of the moving image. Highlights include a Kermit the Frog puppet from 1978; handwritten scripts from Henson’s first television series, Sam and Friends (1955 – 1961); a clip from his Academy Award – nominated experimental film Time Piece (1965); Jen and Kira puppets from The Dark Crystal (1982); familiar Sesame Street puppets including Grover, Ernie, Bert, and Count von Count; plus costumes from Labyrinth (1986).

The exhibition prominently features an exploration of The Muppet Show (1976 – 1981) from a concept Henson first developed in the early 1960s to an internationally beloved series. This section features iconic puppets that helped define this world-wide brand, including Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, and Scooter, as well as material from the Muppets’ transition to the big screen, with set models and storyboards illustrating how sets were designed to accommodate puppets and performers. 

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited is a traveling exhibition organized by Museum of the Moving Image (Astoria, New York) in cooperation with The Jim Henson Company, The Muppets Studio, and Sesame Workshop. The exhibition features puppets and other objects donated to the Museum by the family of Jim Henson, plus works on loan from The Jim Henson Company archives as well as from private lenders. 

Presenting support for the exhibition is generously provided by PNC Bank. Additional funding is provided by Wege Foundation, The Meijer Foundation, and GRAM Exhibition Society. 










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