American foundation established in 1982 by Jim Henson to develop and promote the art of puppetry in the United States. Following the successful 1980 UNIMA festival in Washington, DC, Jim Henson worked with Nancy Lohman Staub, Allelu Kurten and Jane Henson to create this foundation dedicated to supporting American puppetry. From 1982-2017, The Jim Henson Foundation has awarded more than 850 grants for the development and presentation of innovative and contemporary new work primarily for adult audiences. The Foundation operates on an annual granting cycle, giving approximately 35 artist grants per year. Applications are reviewed by a 10-12 person board of directors.
After the death of Jim Henson in 1990, The Jim Henson Foundation produced the biennial Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater in his memory. Headed by Cheryl Henson, President (1992-present) of the Foundation and Executive Producer of the Festival, and Leslee Asch, the producing director and Executive Director (1990-2001) of the Foundation, the Festival ran from 1992 to 2000. These five festivals presented 136 different productions from 31 countries in 24 theatres throughout New York City, along with exhibits, symposia, short experimental works, a film festival, and other related programming. The Festival won both the Drama Desk and the OBIE Award, received coverage from prestigious sources including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, CBS Sunday Morning, and National Public Radio, and is widely acknowledged as having changed the perception of puppet theatre in the United States. Following the festivals, the Foundation added a category for Presenters Grants to encourage the ongoing presentation of Puppet Theater in New York City. Videos of the performances in the first four festivals are available for viewing as part of The Jim Henson Foundation Collection of Puppet Theater at Theater on Film and Tape Archive at the Lincoln Center Library of Performing Arts in New York City.
From 2011-2014, the Foundation co-presented an annual festival “Puppets on Film” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Curated by Lindsey “Z” Briggs, Foundation Manager (2008-present), and Cheryl Henson, this festival brought a wide range of puppet films to new audiences and featured short films from Heather Henson’s Handmade Puppet Dreams.
Every Friday, The Jim Henson Foundation publishes Puppet Happenings, an e-mail newsletter listing puppetry events around the country.
(See United States of America.)