- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2007

ATLANTA — ermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are coming to town.

The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta is set to be the definitive Jim Henson museum with everything from original puppets to sketches from his personal collection, center officials and the Henson family announced Wednesday.

The 29-year-old center will house between 500 and 700 Henson pieces in a wing named for the beloved puppeteer as part of a new building scheduled to open in 2012.

“People will be able to come to Atlanta and immerse themselves in the life and career of Jim Henson in a way that cannot be replicated anywhere else,” said Vince Anthony, founder and executive director of the center.

But fans don’t have to wait five years to see some of the collection.

Kermit the Frog is already on display at the center, and a series of smaller exhibits from the larger collection will rotate through the center until the new space opens. In September, the center will get Rowlf, Swedish Chef and Dr. Teeth puppets as part of an exhibit focusing on the characters that Mr. Henson operated himself.

The center also will display characters from the popular television show “Fraggle Rock” and from cult classic movies “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.”

Fundraising will begin soon for the new puppetry museum. The gift from the Henson family stipulates that the center must open a new facility with ample space for the historic collection before it gets the pieces.

The Henson family has had a close relationship with the center for years, dating to when Mr. Henson and Kermit cut the ceremonial ribbon when the center opened in 1978. The duo visited again for its 10-year anniversary.

“We are delighted the Center for Puppetry Arts will make it possible for the public to see and experience the full breadth of this extraordinary work that reaches across generations and countries to touch everybody,” Cheryl Henson, president of the Jim Henson Foundation and one of the puppeteer’s daughters, said.

Mr. Henson got his start in a 1955 television comedy called “Sam and Friends,” which aired locally in the District. The first Kermit was fashioned from an old coat belonging to Mr. Henson’s mother.

The duo joined “Sesame Street” in 1969, with “The Muppet Show” following in 1976 and running until 1982. Mr. Henson also put his puppets in such movies as “The Muppet Movie,” “The Great Muppet Caper” and “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”

He died suddenly in 1990 at age 53 from pneumonia and a strep infection. Since then, puppeteers from his company have continued the legacy of Kermit and his felt friends.

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