About the Foundation

A Popol Vuh Story
by Ralph Lee

Photo by Jim Moore

The Jim Henson Foundation was founded in 1982 by Muppets creator Jim Henson to promote and develop the art of puppetry in the United States. Each year the Foundation introduces thousands of adults and families to the magic of puppet theater through grant-making and public awareness efforts.

Since its inception, the Foundation has awarded over 900 grants to more than 300 American puppet artists for the creation and development of new work. Past grant recipients include MacArthur Fellow Julie Taymor, director of the Broadway smash The Lion King; Roman Paska, whose dramatic interpretation of Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata was a hit at the 1994 Henson Festival; Ralph Lee, whose production A Popol Vuh Story was also presented at the 1994 Henson Festival and went on to tour New York City public schools; MacArthur Fellow Lee Breuer's company Mabou Mines, whose production Peter & Wendy was featured at the 1996 Spoleto Festival USA and the 1996 Henson Festival, followed by a month-long run at New York's New Victory Theater; and MacArthur Fellow and Doris Duke Performing Artist Award Recipient Basil Twist, whose production Symphonie Fantastique had an acclaimed year-long run in New York.

Peter and Wendy
by Mabou Mines

Photo by Richard Termine

As the only grant-making institution with a mission to promote puppetry in the United States, the Jim Henson Foundation has become a major advocate and resource for puppet artists. The Jim Henson Foundation Collection of Puppet Theater in the Theater on Film and Tape Archive of the New York Public Library for Performing Arts provides a permanent home for Henson International Festival performances, enhancing awareness and understanding of the field among theater students and professionals, the primary users of the archives. The Foundation maintains a video library of national and international puppet performances that serves as a resource and archive for the New York puppetry community. Puppet Happenings, provides information on puppetry performances and activities in the greater New York area, along with events involving the Foundation's grant recipients throughout the country.

For ten years, the Foundation produced the largest international festival of puppet theater in the United States. Founded in 1992 to honor Jim's memory and his love of puppetry, every other year the festival brought the very best puppetry from all over the world to New York for a celebration of innovative object theater, promoting puppet artists to theater presenters, funding sources, journalists and audiences nationwide. The Festival garnered increased attention for contemporary puppet theater in general, enabling puppet artists throughout the United States to reach a wider audience. The Festival won both the Drama Desk and the Obie Award and received coverage from prestigious sources including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, CBS Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, and National Public Radio. You can learn more about our past festivals in our Henson Festival Archive section. These days the Foundation focuses its efforts on supporting American puppet artists through individual grants and through Presenting Grants to New York City theaters staging productions that have received a Foundation grant or high quality international shows

Symphonie Fantastique
by Basil Twist

Photo by Richard Termine