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Jim Henson Statue

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A statue of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog seated on a red granite bench resides in front of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union at the University of Maryland, College Park, Henson's alma mater. Together the statue and bench comprise the Jim Henson Memorial, which was a gift of the class of 1998. Surrounding the memorial is the Henson Memorial Garden, which was designed by landscape architect Philip Cho as a gift from the classes of 1994 and 1999. Of the $217,000 total cost for the memorial and garden, the three classes donated twenty percent, and the university and student union provided the remaining funds. [1]

Origin of the memorial

According to Henson archivist Karen Falk, the notion of an on-campus memorial for Henson grew out of the special event The Muppets Take Maryland, which took place at the university in 1997. [2]

The idea for a Henson statute came from the Maryland class of 1998, whose members wanted to remember Henson with a gift for the important influence he had over children’s lives. The classes of 1994 and ’99 later joined in on the $217,000 project, along with the university and the student union, according to university spokesman Dave Ottalini. [3]

Choosing a design

Clay statue1

The winner: miniature clay model by Jay Hall Carpenter

A committee composed of representatives from the university, the class of 1998, and the Henson family, [4] and presided over by Jane Henson and Bonnie Erickson, [5] held a national competition to select a sculptor for the project. Sculptors were given the same set of basic criteria: Henson and Kermit seated on a bench. In December 2000, the committee chose Jay Hall Carpenter from a small pool of finalists after he presented a miniature clay model of his design. [1] Carpenter had previously worked as a sculptor for various memorials and for the Washington National Cathedral. [1] When the commission was announced, Jane Henson remarked "[Carpenter's] grasp of Jim’s work and spirit makes him the ideal artist to create this statue of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog." [4] Carpenter later said of his design "I think everyone else sort of had them in the traditional pose of Kermit sitting on Jim's shoulders. My idea was a little different. Jim always presented Kermit as a separate entity so I wanted to do that as well." [6] "The way I see it, they're talking about their next big project, and, so they're in this animated discussion, and in the middle of it, Kermit reaches over and touches Jim, as a little gesture of solidarity." [7]

Building the memorial

The memorial was built in several stages. Carpenter first sculpted a full-size clay model and cast it in bronze at the New Arts Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland. The statue was cast in several pieces and then welded together. Meanwhile, the red granite bench was manufactured in Texas and assembled on-site in College Park. The finished statue was then joined to the bench on-site on September 22, 2003, two days before the unveiling ceremony. [1]

The unveiling ceremony

The unveiling ceremony was held on September 24th, 2003, on what would have been Jim Henson's 67th birthday. The event featured a giant inflatable balloon of Kermit; in addition, university officials renamed Campus Drive "Sesame Street" for the day, [5] as they had done earlier for The Muppets Take Maryland event. [4] NBC's Willard Scott emceed the ceremony, and he and Jane Henson shared their reminiscences with attendees. Henson said that the the Adele H. Stamp Student Union was a “fitting place” for the memorial because Henson had designed poster art there as an undergraduate. [3]

The unveiling was timed to coincide with the exhibit Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles, which took place at the The University's Hornbake Library from September 15 through December 19, 2003. In addition, a Muppet movie festival was held at the university’s Hoff Theater on the two days preceding the unveiling. [5]

The occasion also served as the premiere of Jim Henson: Creator of Dreams, a video commissioned by Jane Henson and produced in association with the Paulist Press. The video, which contains footage of sculptor Jay Hall Carpenter creating the Jim Henson Statue, was recognized with a Telly Award. [5]

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Saunders, Adrienne "Muppet tribute" The Baltimore Sun, September 15, 2003.
  2. Clark, Thomas D., telephone interview with Karen Falk, December 10, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mather, Stephen E. "Hundreds Remember Muppets Creator With Statue Dedication at UMD" Maryland Newsline, September 24, 2003.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Statue FAQ: newsdesk.umd.edu
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 jimhensonlegacy.org
  6. Quoted in: Dietrick, Julie "Kermit, Henson to take a seat by Stamp Union today" Diamonback online, September 24, 2003.
  7. Jim Henson: Creator of Dreams

See also

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