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Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years

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by Joann Jovinelly (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
New Yorkers love the Muppets. After all, the Henson characters have been identified with the city for most of their lives. Kermit the Frog has been flying steadily in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1977. Even the idea for Sesame Street came to light during a dinner party in Gramercy Park. The set for the show itself was modeled after brownstones along Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan as well as locations in Harlem and the Bronx. And now, a stretch of Columbus Avenue (at 64th Street) has been temporarily renamed "123 Sesame Street" in honor of the 40th anniversary of the popular children's program. Mayor Bloomberg has even proclaimed November 10 "Sesame Street Day" in New York City. Everywhere you look, the Muppets are celebrating their long and successful history throughout the five boroughs.

Brooklyn is among the best cities to heighten your awareness of all things Muppet. The main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is currently showing a three-part Sesame Street exhibit, sponsored in part by the Jim Henson Foundation. The main display fills the grand lobby with a selection of colorful book illustrations spanning the life of the children's show, now part of the Publishing Archive of Sesame Workshop. The archive, which has been active only for the past three years, has complied an impressive body of Sesame Street media, a diverse collection that showcases the work of hundreds of artists, illustrators, musicians, and authors. (The 1971 illustration shown here, "Sesame Street Shapes" by Leon Jason Studios, was originally pictured on a tray puzzle and is featured in the exhibit.)

The library's foyer gallery reveals behind-the-scenes stories about the creation of Sesame Street in a dazzling collection of photographs, sheet music, scripts, and props, many highlighting early episodes from the 1960s and 1970s. The bread and butter of the exhibit is, of course, the variety of original Sesame Street Muppets that are on view, offering patrons a unique chance to see them up close. Also included are videos showing animated sequences that demonstrate how Sesame Street's creators imagined its content could be a successful learning tool for preschoolers.

The final part of the exhibit—located in the children's library—celebrates international Sesame Street characters and global diplomacy. Distinct Muppets like Chamki (Sesame Street India), Zikwi (Sesame Street South Africa), and Pancho (Sesame Street Mexico) are displayed in photographs and animations and are further evidence of the show's timeless blend of creativity and education. (Sesamstrasse anyone? You and your inner child can also explore the international versions of Sesame Street.)

After the exhibit, continue your Muppet journey virtually. Relive your favorite Muppet segments, read digital versions of popular e-books (including Grover's ever popular, "The Monster at the End of This Book"), play a variety of interactive games, print out free activity pages, and even download the brand new Sesame Street iPhone app. Now that's progress!
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Why? Because Jim Henson's legacy and the amazing contributions of the Children's Television Workshop are unrivaled.
When: Now through February 21, 2010
Where: Brooklyn Public Library, Main Branch
Cost: Free
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