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Muppets take Astoria with programs for the holidays

A permanent gallery dedicated to Jim Henson and his Muppets will open at the Museum of the Moving Image in 2015. Photo courtesy Jim Henson Co.
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The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria is shifting into full Muppet mode for the holiday season with a series of screenings and puppetry workshops for children.

From Dec. 21 through Jan. 1, the museum, at 36-01 35th Ave., will feature “Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas,” including behind the scenes footage every day at 1 p.m.

On Dec. 8, a special screening of the film will include guest speakers paying tribute to Muppet creator Jim Henson’s colleagues who died earlier this year: producer Diana Birkenfield and the puppeteer Franz “Faz” Fazakas.

In addition, kids can take part in a series of puppetry workshops where they will be taught how to make their own puppets with Henson’s techniques. The workshops cost $10 for materials. It is all part of a new monthly series called “Jim Henson’s World,” programming designed to raise awareness that the museum will be home to a permanent Muppets gallery in 2015.

“It’s a very big project,” curator Barbara Miller said. “I’ve been assessing the Henson collection that was donated to the city by his family. It has over 200 puppets, costumes, props and storyboards. It is the most significant collection the museum has ever acquired. The totality of his work is incredible.”

The programs and monthly events associated with “Jim Henson’s World” are also part of the museum’s fund-raising effort.

“We’ve raised $3.25 million for the exhibit so far,” Executive Director Carl Goodman said, “but we still have a way to go before we hit our target of $5 million.”

A program is in the works in which donors can sponsor individual muppets that will be part of the exhibit.

“The very high-end donors will have a muppet made in their likeness made by Henson’s people,” said Goodman, noting Mayor Michael Bloomberg has one of himself after a personal donation.

He added that 150,000 people visit the Museum of the Moving Image each year, which will grow as well as the excitement the more the museum is linked to the Henson brand.

“Jim Henson lived and worked in New York and deserves to have a permanent exhibit here in New York,” said Goodman.

Craig Shemin was a writer for the Henson Co. for 14 years. He is now president of a non-profit organization called The Jim Henson Legacy that makes sure that Henson’s name stays connected to his great works. Shemin is assisting the Museum of the Moving Image as it develops a plan for the permanent gallery. “I am thrilled that the puppets have a home instead of deteriorating in boxes,” he said, “To see them get in front of people again is truly special and so important.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Posted 12:00 am, December 9, 2013
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