The City of Hyattsville and The Jim Henson Legacy celebrated Jim Henson’s connection to Hyattsville with a special community event this past Friday and Saturday at the Jim Henson Courtyard in Hyattsville’s Driskell Park. The event featured a sing-a-long to The Muppet Movie (1979), puppet- making crafts, and the unveiling of new informational signage in the courtyard.
Per the City of Hyattsville: Jim Henson (1936-1990), the visionary artist and inventor of The Muppets, moved to the Hyattsville area as a child and was a student at Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School and nearby University of Maryland, College Park. He began developing prototypes for the Muppets while in high school and in 1955 debuted a nightly five-minute show on local cable station WRC-TV-4 called Sam and Friends. The show set the stage for Henson’s career and the eventual development of The Muppet Show.
In 2016 the City of Hyattsville and The Jim Henson Legacy installed the Jim Henson Courtyard in Hyattsville’s Driskell Park (formerly Magruder Park) as a way to honor Henson’s local roots. The courtyard’s sculptural planter and accompanying benches were designed by artist William C. Culbertson to feature images of the Sam and Friends characters and inspirational quotes from Henson. The courtyard is a popular gathering place, used regularly by the City for events like the annual holiday tree lighting.
“When Jim Henson was a member of the puppetry club of Northwestern High School back in 1954, no one could have imagined it was the start of a career that would launch some of the most famous characters in the world,” says Craig Shemin, President of The Jim Henson Legacy. “This tribute to Jim is a wonderful way to mark the place where it all began.”
New signage describing the early career of Jim Henson and his connection to the greater Hyattsville community was recently designed by the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation in partnership with The Jim Henson Legacy and the Jane Henson Foundation. The sign will be unveiled as part of the celebration on May 20.
“Hyattsville is proud to be known as an arts community,” shares Hyattsville Mayor Robert Croslin. “Last fall we celebrated the renaming Driskell Park after David C. Driskell, a former resident who inspired many with his art. We are excited to welcome the community back to the park to honor another resident whose art captured the imagination of generations.”
Established in 1992, The Jim Henson Legacy was created by family and friends in response to the extraordinary interest in the life and work of Jim Henson. The organization is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating Jim Henson’s contributions to the worlds of puppetry, television, motion pictures, special effects and media technology. Partnerships with the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, and many other cultural and educational institutions allow the Legacy to share the power of Jim Henson’s art, imagination and positive view of life with generations to come. Photo courtesy of www.jimhensonlegacy.org.