2016 Guidelines

2017 Granting Cycle, Calendar
  March 14, 2016: Letter of intent postmark deadline  
  June 1, 2016: Notification of application status  
  September 12, 2016: Full proposal postmark deadline  
  December 1, 2016:  Final notification  

2017 Granting Cycle, Calendar - Presenter's Grants
  November 1, 2016: Deadline to submit Presenter's Grant Applications, Fall  
  May 1, 2017: Deadline to submit Presenter's Grant Applications, Spring  

Funding Priorities & Restrictions

Anatomy of Melancholy
by Pamella O'Connor

Photo by Steve Mann

The Jim Henson Foundation awards grants each year for the creation and development of innovative works of puppet theater. Production Grants of $7,000 are awarded for the production of new works ready to be presented in the coming year. Workshop Grants of $3,000 are for the development and workshopping of these pieces. Workshop Grants and Production Grants can be combined over a two year period for the greatest benefit to the piece; keep in mind, however, that a Production Grant does not need to be proceeded by a Workshop grant and a Workshop Grant in no way ensures a future Production Grant.

Family Grants of $4,000 fund the development of new and innovative work specifically for children, families, and teenagers. Please keep in mind that Family Grants will be evaluated by the same high artistic standards as works for adults.

Since we began awarding grants in 1982, there has been astonishing growth in both the quantity and quality of puppet theater in this country. This has made it increasingly difficult to narrow the applicant pool, so we have instituted a policy that we hope will more evenly distribute our funds among the many artists worthy of support. Artists who received a grant in the previous year are not eligible to submit a proposal in the current year. Artists who received a Workshop Grant in the previous year are eligible to apply in the current year, but only for a Production Grant to further develop the previously funded piece.

Grants are made only for the development of new works of live puppet theater. The Foundation does not award funds for the presentation or remounting of existing work. Grants cannot be applied retroactively; substantial portions of a proposed project must take place after the funds are awarded. We do not fund publications, parades, pageants, exhibitions, spectacle, festivals, film or television projects, projects for school credit, workshops, or any other types of education or outreach activities.

We would like to emphasize that live puppet performance needs to be an integral element of any proposed project. While we will consider productions that utilize other media and genres, a substantial portion of the piece must feature puppetry that is well-executed in both design and performance.

Awards can be made only to IRS tax-exempt organizations. We welcome applications from individual artists, but those without 501(c)(3) status must apply through a fiscal sponsor. Applications for international collaborations are accepted, but the primary artist and fiscal sponsor must be a US citizen. Projects that will only take place outside of the Unites States are not eligible for funding.

Letters of Intent

If you would like to be considered for a grant, the first step is to submit a letter of intent postmarked on or before March 14, 2016.

The letter of intent must not exceed one page and should include your complete contact information and a clear description of the planned project. Please include information on any upcoming performances as well. The letter must be accompanied by a one-page visual. This can be a working sketch, photograph (no slides), or combination of images that are directly relevant to the puppetry in the proposed project and must be one sided and no larger than 8 1/2 x 11. Puppetry is a visual medium, the image which you submit is essential to the letter of intent phase of the process. If you have any information regarding the visual please be sure to include it either in your letter, or on the same side of the visual that will be scanned. We will only scan one side of of your visual.

Please indicate which category of grant you intend to apply for - Workshop, Production or Family Grant. Do not submit a cover letter or any other additional materials. Letters of intent are accepted only via postal mail or in-person drop off.

Approximately half of the applicants submitting letters of intent will be asked to submit full proposals. Letters of intent will be reviewed at the Spring board meeting, and applicants will be notified of the board's decision by June 1, 2016.

Application Instructions

If you are invited to submit a full proposal, your application must be received on or before September 12, 2016 . Late applications are not accepted.  Applications will be reviewed at the Fall board meeting, and applicants will be notified of the board's decision by December 1, 2016.
This cycle we are accepting applications online only.  

Please read the application instructions carefully. All materials including photographs and other visuals must be submitted as a multi-page PDF.  Materials that exceed page limits will not be reviewed. Applications must include the following information:
  • online grant application
    An online grant application link has been emailed to you from our Foundation Manager.  Please use this link to submit your application.
Multi-page PDF should include:
  • a one-page project description 
    Describe the technique you will use and the concept of the piece, including content, dramatic arc, execution, and use of puppetry.
  • a one-page project budget, including both income and expense 
    Submit a budget for the entire project - not just a budget for how Foundation funds would be spent.
  • a one-page artist bio 
    If more than one artist is included in the application, all bios should be combined on one page.
  • a one-page company or organization description (only if needed) 
    Include only if substantially different from the artist bio.
  • a copy of IRS 501(c)3 determination letter 
    If you are using a fiscal sponsor, you must also include a letter from the organization stating that they agree to serve as your fiscal sponsor for the project.
  • Production Grant, 2017 Presenting Commitment
    If you are applying for a production grant you will need to have proof of a commitment with a presenter for 2017 included in your application.  If you are unable to get a commitment by the September 12 application postmark deadline, you can have some additional time.  The final deadline for this is November 1, you may send this follow up proof in the form of a PDF.

  • Photographs, sketches or other visuals relevant to the proposed project
    Each grant application is required to submit no more than one page of color images; Visuals should be 8 1/2 x 11.  Applicants are advised to caption the visual with a brief description on the same side as the image. Visuals must pertain to the proposed project. It is not helpful to submit work samples that we have seen in past applications.
Video Sample Submission
  • Video Footage
    Video Footage is a requirement for all applicants. If you are applying for a Production or Family Grant the video needs to be of the project for which you are applying. Workshop Grant applicants may submit video of a past performance, however we recommend that at least a portion of your video be of the proposed project.
    • All video submissions should be high quality .mov, .m4v, or .mp4 files.
    • File should be no larger than 2GB
    • File should be 3-4 minutes, but no longer than 4 minutes.

Instructions for how to submit your application

A link to this year's online grant application will be emailed to you from our Foundation Manager.

The multi-page PDF and video footage need to be uploaded to:  https://www.hightail.com/dropbox?dropbox=HensonFoundation

When submitting your application materials via the Highatil.com link above:
  • under "Full Name" write the name of the artist or company that is submitting the grant application
  • under "Subject" write the name of the project for which you are submitting
  • under "Message" write the name of the artist or company that is submitting the grant application, which category you have been invited to submit under (Production, Workshop or Family), and any other notes that may be necessary.
An email will be sent to you acknowledging the receipt of your full application within one week of its receipt.

Presenter's Grants - invitation only

The Jim Henson Foundation Presenter's Grants were created in 2004 to help to continue the work started by the Henson International Festivals of Puppet Theater in the 1990s. These grants were established to promote the presentation of excellence in contemporary puppet theater in New York City. Please note, there are very limited funds for Presenter's Grants and they are at this time invitation only. There are two levels of funding for Presenter's Grants: $5,000 and $10,000.
NOTE:  It is important that a majority of the grant is used towards performance fees and services that directly benefit the artists.

$5,000 - The presenting of one piece of puppet theater in a high-profile theater. This piece needs to be either a Production Grant recipient of The Jim Henson Foundation, an international piece of puppet theater, or a work that is of exceptionally high caliber. We fund excellence in new contemporary puppet theater. The work needs to be fully supported by the theater in a proper run of a minimum of four performances, more if possible. The Foundation encourages the venue to offer a master class made available to the professional puppetry community, led by the puppet artist.

$10,000 - The presenting of three or more works of puppet theater within a season or a festival. This must be a minimum of three different puppet artists (or companies) performing three different pieces of puppet theater. The pieces need to be either Production Grant recipients of The Jim Henson Foundation, international pieces of puppet theater, or works that are of exceptionally high caliber. We fund excellence in new contemporary puppet theater. Each work needs to have an a minimum of two performances and we encourage a longer run of at least 4 performances, and more if possible. The Foundation encourages the venue to offer a master class made available to the professional puppetry community, led by the puppet artist.

If your theater is invited to apply for a $5,000, or $10,000 Presenter's Grant please submit a letter detailing the puppet theater programming you are planning for 2016, a budget outlining how this funding will be used to help support this programming, dates and times of when events will take place, a description of how your venue has supported new contemporary works of puppet theater in the past, and 2-3 pages of visuals (8.5 x 11, preferably color) that support your application. Up to 4 minutes of video for each puppet theater piece is encouraged, but is not a requirement.


If you have a question about our guidelines, you may be able to find the answer on our list of Frequently Asked Questions. You can also reach us at 212.439.7504 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . It is best to contact us with any questions well in advance of the application deadlines.