Co-founded by Eric Carle and his wife Barbara in 2002, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is gearing up to launch six months’ worth of anniversary events. Beginning next month, it will host a full roster of festivities taking place in Amherst, Mass., as well as in New York and virtually. From June through December, fans of the author-illustrator of more than 70 books, who died last May, can choose from a number of activities that pay tribute to the space that commemorates the rich history of picture books.
Here are the major highlights scheduled for the museum’s 20th anniversary.
An Homage to Collage
The Celebrating Collage: A 20th Anniversary Celebration exhibit, opening on June 25, features a showcase of 90 collages from 20 picture book artists specializing in this design form. The idea for the retrospective immediately took hold during the planning stages of the anniversary event. “It felt like a perfect way to pay tribute to Eric, who was, of course, a master collagist himself, creating art with painted tissue papers for more than 50 years,” said executive director Alexandra Kennedy. “We also knew from 20 years of exhibiting picture book art that our visitors were drawn to collage as a medium; it’s so accessible and tactile to the viewer, while it invites artists to be deeply inventive.”
Kennedy, along with museum chief curator Ellen Keiter and director of education Courtney Waring, selected the featured artists, comprised of Micha Archer, Ashley Bryan, Eric Carle, Bryan Collier, Nina Crews, Lois Ehlert, Julie Flett, Ekua Holmes, Steve Jenkins, Ezra Jack Keats, Thao Lam, Leo Lionni, Oge Mora, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Christian Robinson, Susan L. Roth, Melissa Sweet, Simms Taback, Ed Young, and Elizabeth Zunon.
Opening Day Events
On June 25—what would have been Carle’s 93rd birthday—the museum will host Collier, Crews, Lam, Roth, and Zunon for a day of story times, gallery talks, and book signings. Refreshments will be provided by a food truck, and guests will be treated to free Very Hungry Caterpillar cookies. The family day event, from 11 a.m.–4 p.m., will be promoted via print and radio advertising, social media, e-blasts, and on the Carle Museum website.
Fourteen Carle titles with milestone 20th, 25th, and 50th birthdays in 2022 and 2023 have earned a dedicated exhibit. Entitled Eric Carle: Book Birthdays, this display will run from September 3–March 5, 2023 and feature the following titles: Do Bears Have Mothers Too?; Flora and the Tiger; From Head to Toe; Have You Seen My Cat?; Hello, Red Fox; I See a Song; Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; Rooster’s Off to See the World; The Secret Birthday Message; Slowly, Slowly, Slowly, Said the Sloth; The Very Long Tail; The Very Long Train; and Walter the Baker.
2022 Carle Honors
On September 29, the Carle will recognize champions in children’s literature at the 16th annual Carle Honors Benefit Gala and Art Auction in New York. This year’s recipients will be Faith Ringgold (Artist); Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, represented by Jeff Conyers (Angel); Ajia (阿甲)(Bridge), and Wade and Cheryl Hudson (Mentor). A short film chronicling the museum’s 20th anniversary will also be shown.
November 19 marks the opening of The Carle Collection: Recent Acquisitions, an exhibit containing 60 pieces of art that have been donated to the museum during the last five years. Featured selections include an 1899 ink illustration by Charles Robinson and a 1941 watercolor by Wanda Gág. Works by Remy Charlip, Raúl Colón, Lulu Delacre, Ekua Holmes, Lois Lenski, Arnold Lobel, Allen Say, Maurice Sendak, E.H. Shepard, and Pamela Zagarenski round out the collection.
Later that week on its official anniversary (November 22), the Carle will update its website with hundreds of pieces of art, enabling patrons to view them digitally at no cost. The museum has amassed 95% of its collection through donations for long-term use. “We are so grateful to the artists, estates, collectors, and individuals for their generous gifts of art over the past two decades,” Kennedy said. “Eric and Barbara Carle were very proud of our permanent collection, but they never anticipated it would grow so quickly.”
As the museum continues to welcome more than 50,000 patrons annually at its Amherst location, it will focus on expanding its reach? through its traveling exhibition program, which draws more than 500,000 people per year in the U.S. and internationally. Long-time partnerships with such institutions as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and the New-York Historical Society (currently showing “Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Children’s Books”), have helped introduce picture book art to a wider audience. “It’s a perfect example of how large art and history museums are embracing art created for children—and helping to tell important stories,” Kennedy said.
Over the next five years, the museum plans to diversify its permanent collection and exhibit art by acquiring more works by women artists and artists of color. “These steps, we hope, will help us as an institution reflect honestly on the past and encourage the creation of more books that mirror the multicultural world we live in,” said Kennedy.