Even though winter is almost here, I’d like harken back to the golden days of July and share a trip I made to Findlay, Ohio this summer. The purpose? To teach two creative workshops at The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books’ summer conference.
The Mazza has an astounding collection of original picture book art. It also has mission to educate, endorse, and share the joy of art and the picture book with everyone. In addition to two annual conferences, they host a number of programs, workshops, and initiatives for adults and children alike. During a break between my workshops, I dashed over to the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion to check out the galleries.
The main gallery is absolutely packed, almost from floor to ceiling, with children’s book illustrations.
Notice the little black binders near the floor? That’s information about the different authors on display, along with reading copies of the book. Such a terrific idea.
My favorite display, however, was a small side gallery containing displays of pop-up books.
Like the main gallery, there were plenty of reading copies on hand. Here’s the Young Naturalists Pop-Up Handbook of Butterflies by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda (Hyperion, 2001). I also spotted some of Reinhart’s original My Little Pony sketches.
Back in the main gallery, there are some terrific whimsical touches. Like this Mother Goose flying from the ceiling:
And an Owl and the Pussycat sailboat docked on the gallery floor!
Did you notice the natural light filtering down in the above image? The central gallery has a large skylight that is partially blocked by an extensive loft area. Inside that light-filled loft is the MOST AWESOME PLACE EVER…a children’s space!
Here, you’ll find plenty of comfy, kid-sized seating and a number of hands-on activities.
There’s a building table, a wall of gears, word games, drawing activities, some felt boards…and do you recognize this iconic library with the lions?
To exit the loft, you could take the stairs back down. Or, you could nip into the rabbit hole…
And ride down the twisty slide!
Elsewhere in the building is an art studio for kids, a teacher resource center, multiple display of children’s artwork, and a gift shop with a big central area that encourages extensive browsing.
In the gift shop, I found a book so ingenious, I swear we have to do this for the Cotsen Children’s Library. It’s a custom picture book called Mazza from A to Z by Jenny Hanf (University of Findlay, 2016).
A class of adorable animals visit the museum and makes their way through the ABCs of visiting. Guess what the letter S is?
But the very best Mazza treasure I saved for last. Deep within the staff offices is a conference room filled with original illustrations, sketches, and notes from children’s book authors and illustrators.
Every inch of the wall is covered. It’s amazing to think of the talent that has stood in this very room, Sharpie in hand, sketching on the wall.
The love, admiration, and dedication to picture books, illustrations, and education is clearly evident at the Mazza. Their conferences are intimate and well-thought out, with a wonderful array of talent. The Fall 2016 conference, for example, featured Tony Abbott, Brian Biggs, Nikki McClure, Sergio Ruzzier, Dan Santat, and David Wiesner. Simply splendid.
Many thanks to the Mazza for inviting me to teach at their summer conference, and for graciously allowing me to photograph their galleries and offices.