The Center for Puppetry Arts, founded in Atlanta in 1978 by a gentleman by the name of Vincent Anthony, is North America’s largest non-profit dedicated to puppetry. The venue, which has won numerous awards, today offers distance learning programmes, classes, workshops, the Nancy Lohman Staub Puppetry Research Library, and performance spaces.
There’s also the Worlds of Puppetry Museum with two galleries, one exhibiting the Global Collection and the other, the Jim Henson Collection. Over the years, The Center has been somewhat of an authority in the field of puppetry and has played host to numerous festivals and conferences.
Films and performances
The duo of theatre spaces within The Center show more than 600 puppetry performances each year, which includes a film series, experimental works, the New Direction Series for Adults and Teens, and a Family Series. As well as the Center’s award-winning performances, it frequently hosts performances from artists throughout the country, and even the globe.
In 1978, Nancy Lohman Staub made a sizeable puppet donation to The Center, which was the basis for its museum collection. The collection has expanded over the last 37 years to feature over 3,600 puppets, as well as 1,000 posters of cultural and historical importance.
The collection includes objects from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and North America. As well as representing cultures from all over the world, the collection includes puppets of artists, cultural, historical, religious, and sociopolitical importance.
It was in 2007 when the Henson family chose The Center to become the new home for the majority of their astounding collection of costumes, props, and puppets from Jim Henson’s career, featuring numerous well-known pieces from such famous productions as The Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, The Muppet Show, and Sesame Street. The donation led to a capital campaign known as Believe in Make Believe. The campaign managed to raise more than 14 million dollars to contribute towards a new museum facility at The Center.
Featuring the The Worlds of Puppetry facility, the museum opened its doors in 2015, with the the Global Collection in one gallery and the Jim Henson Collection in another. As well as the Worlds of Puppetry, the museum features other temporary special exhibits, including pieces from the global collection and the donation from the Henson family.
The education department provides diverse and robust educational programmes with workshops for both adults and children on a daily basis, in addition to Distance Learning and outreach programmes. Visitors can build and dress up their own puppets in the Create-A-Puppet Workshops. These puppets are inspired by the characters, or style, of the Family Series production presented at the time.
Adults can participate in any one of the numerous professional workshops on offer in the Explore Puppetry Series. Children aged between 9 and 12 can take part in the Junior Explorers Series, which is presented by the Puppet Camp. Then there’s the award-wining Distance Learning programme, with its interactive, live videoconference programmes, as well as performances that enables puppet fans and school groups to get a taste of what goes on at The Center, no matter where in the world they are.