Through the years, Mississippi has contributed much to the arts and culture of the region, and the nation. The number of prize-winning authors, artists, musicians, journalists and others who have called Mississippi home is truly impressive, and Mississipians should be justly proud of this tradition.
Among all these people and their accomplishments, one stands out in a way that is distinct from all the rest. It would be hard to dispute the fact that Mississippi native Jim Henson, through his work, brought more smiles, laughter, cheer and delight to more people than any other individual in the state’s history.
A new exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art, titled “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World,” chronicles Henson’s life, work and accomplishments from his early years in the Delta to the end of his life. Born in 1936 in Greenville, Henson grew up exploring Deer Creek around Leland, and it was there that Kermit the Frog was conceived as well as many others of Henson’s world-renowned characters.
The exhibit naturally includes many of the characters that have been part of the scene for many years from Henson’s movies and television shows. Yes, Kermit is on display, along with many of his friends such as Bert and Ernie from “Sesame Street,” the Fraggles from “Fraggle Rock,” characters from “The Dark Crystal” and, of course, characters from “The Muppet Show” and movies. Perhaps of even more interest, however, are the small personal touches and anecdotal displays that are an integral part of the exhibit, including many of Henson’s original sketches and designs for his characters and sets; photos from many different times in Henson’s life, including his early years before he and his characters became household names; and, many other items that enable behind-the-scenes perspectives.
Through the exhibit, the viewer can get a feel for the creative thought processes that led to the characters, the movies and television shows, and will come away with a better perspective on Henson the man and artist. Until his untimely death in 1990, Henson was continually engaged in many projects, and thanks to his irrepressible creativity and energy, the worlds he created continue to live on as his legacy.
Of current interest, a portion of the exhibit is also dedicated to the Jackson-produced award-winning kids’ series “Between the Lions.” People of all ages will be interested in this portion of the exhibit as it demonstrates how the puppets are created and operated.
In challenging times such as these, we can all use a smile, a laugh, a fond memory. All those are readily available, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Sites and The Jim Henson Legacy, as well as local sponsors MPB, Donna and Jim Barksdale and the Jackson CVB. It’s a great opportunity to show support for the Mississippi Museum of Art and its efforts to showcase Mississippi art and culture.
The exhibit continues through March 14, and from here, will continue on a national tour through 2011.
Contact MBJ publisher and editor-in-chief Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.