Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City are teaming up to host a new event series that gives young readers and their families the chance to learn about the bookmaking process from a number of contemporary picture book illustrators. As part of the Children’s Book Illustrator Series, featured artists will read from their latest work and deliver a presentation providing insight into their creative process. Afterwards, attendees will have the opportunity to get creative in the Guggenheim’s art workshop, in the Sackler Center for Arts Education.
The series kicks off on April 22 with a reading and workshop led by Caldecott Honor artist Bryan Collier, illustrator of Between the Lines by Sandra Neil Wallace, which tells the story of NFL-star-turned-artist Ernie Barnes. The 2018 lineup for the Children’s Book Illustrator Series also includes award-winning illustrator, author, and animator Evan Turk, who will discuss his new picture book, Heartbeat, following the life journey of a baby whale; Tomie dePaola, beloved creator of the Strega Nona series, whose book Quiet features a lesson in mindfulness; and artist Leah Tinari, who will present her nonfiction picture book Limitless, a collection of portraits celebrating the achievements of 24 American women.
Lauren Hoffman, v-p and director of marketing and publicity at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, told PW about the origin of the series. The initial spark came in November 2017, she said, when children’s musician Laurie Berkner was invited to give a performance in honor of her lullaby-based picture book, Pillowland, at the Guggenheim’s Peter B. Lewis Theater. Hoffman said, “[After the show] attendees were invited to construct colorful shadow boxes based on illustrator Camille Garoche’s cut-paper technique, in the Guggenheim’s smaller workshop rooms. Watching the children connect with the book in such a creative, hands-on way was remarkable. We wanted to be able to share that amazing experience with families in N.Y.C. year-round, and invite other talented author-illustrators to participate.”
On developing the roster of artists for the 2018 series, she said, “After the Berkner event, we met with the Guggenheim’s School, Youth, & Family Program to discuss additional opportunities. We reviewed a number of upcoming picture books, and together we selected [the lineup]. Some titles complement existing installations or upcoming exhibits, and the team was very interested in the illustrators’ process and art.”
Noting that this is the first series of its kind for S&S Children’s, Hoffman said, “This partnership is a refreshing update to the standard storytime event model, in that attendees learn about award-winning illustrators’ art processes, and then create their own book-inspired projects—all while inside the historic landmark museum. A young attendee of an illustrator event may very well be tomorrow’s next Caldecott-winning artist!” As far as the potential for extending the program, Hoffman said, “Both S&S Children’s and the Guggenheim are open to continuing the series beyond 2018.”
Many of the participating illustrators said they especially look forward to sharing their work with young readers in the museum setting. Evan Turk, whose event will take place at the Guggenheim on May 20, said, “Children’s books are often some of the first experiences that children have with art, and for some kids, it might be (although hopefully not) the last time they really engage with a piece of art, especially as kids ‘age out’ of picture books younger and younger. I love the idea that such a prominent museum as the Guggenheim is helping to expand kids’ visual literacy through such a perfect medium: the picture book.”
In addition to reading Heartbeat during his event, Turk said, “I’ll be talking with kids and their families about what kinds of thinking and decision-making go into illustrating a book, and how the symbols, colors, compositions, and style can all help tell a story if we pay close attention. I’ll be bringing in some of the original pastels and collages from the book, as well as sketches and thumbnail drawings to help explain my process.” Participants will then be invited to create their own artwork. Turk added, “I think that the series is the perfect way to speak with kids about the idea of learning to ‘read’ artwork. I love that [the presentation] is combined with the art-making process as well, so it’s really the full experience.”
Tomie dePaola will appear at the Guggenheim’s Peter B. Lewis Theater on October 21. The author-illustrator described his upcoming event as “an interview-style discussion about Quiet, and my career.” He is particularly excited about the program’s interactive format, “When I work in my studio in New Hampshire, I’m alone. So, I’m always pleased when there’s an opportunity to talk with children and families.” Referring to his latest project, he said, “This new book, Quiet, will give me a chance to encourage [readers] to daydream and doodle—two things that have gotten lost in our busy device-driven society.”
Leah Tinari, whose event will be held on December 16, explained that the museum itself resonates with her latest work. “My book Limitless is a celebration of remarkable women, and I have always thought of Peggy Guggenheim as a remarkable woman. I’m grateful to her and her family for giving New York City the gift of this museum and art collection. I am thrilled to be able to share my work with families so intimately.”
Tinari reflected on the impact of her childhood trip to the museum: “I remember visiting the museum with my family as a girl,” she said. “I was so impressed by the museum’s design. I mean, what’s not to love as a young kiddo: a giant ramp as far as the eye could see, that starts on the ground floor and continues round and round all the way to the ceiling. I was totally psyched by the ramp, though I also remember feeling as though I was floating through the museum up and around, being able to take in all the artwork uninterrupted. My first trip to the Guggenheim really did feel magical.”
Tickets for each of the four programs include museum admission, workshop materials, and one copy of the featured book, to be signed by the author. The events are geared toward children ages four and up. For more information on the series, click here.