Elephant & Piggie We are Art! opens at Art Center

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlberthttps://discovermuscatine.com
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–For the young and the young at heart, looking through a picture book can provide lots of entertainment. To celebrate the artistry that goes in illustrating children’s books, and to look at the work of a highly popular author and illustrator today, the Muscatine Art Center, located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue, will have the exhibit Elephant & Piggie We Are Art! featuring the work of Mo Willems on display through Feb. 5, 2023.

Since 2019, the Muscatine Art Center has worked to find a children’s book illustration exhibit to bring to town. After researching several different organizations that present these kinds of exhibitions, they elected to work with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst Massachusetts. With its assistance, the Art Center selected Elephant & Piggie We are Art! as the exhibit that would have the most appeal.

A well-loved book series, the Elephant & Piggie stories tell the tales of two close friends with very different personalities who go on adventures and solve problems together. The stories, in addition to giving children and adults lots of good laughs, teach lessons about kindness, friendship, and getting along with others.

Though the line drawings in the Elephant & Piggie series, as well as some of Willems’ other books, such as “Don’t Let the Pidgeon Drive the Bus,” may appear quite simple, it takes Willems several drafts to move from his concept art to the final design. In the exhibit, viewers can see rough sketches, multiple drafts, dummy books, and final prints and learn about the process that goes in to illustrating a book for publication.

A dummy Elephant and Piggie book on display at the Muscatine Art Center. Photo by Margaret Hurlbert.

A look behind the scenes at the creative process, Muscatine Art Center Director Melanie Alexander believes the exhibit will appear to children, their care givers, and aspiring illustrators and graphic artists interested in seeing a professional’s process. “I think people will, even if they aren’t familiar with Mo Willems’ works, enjoy the humor in the drawings and the weird situations Elephant and Piggie find themselves in,” she said. “Anyone who enjoys drawing cartoons will enjoy seeing the work that goes into Mo Willem’s books.”

Though people may come and see Elephant & Piggie We are Art! anytime during the Art Center’s open hours, Alexander especially looks forward to hosting groups of children interested in taking a tour. “We make arrangements for those kinds of experiences on a first come, first served basis, but we’re happy to work with anyone, be it school groups, daycares, and youth groups.” Any group that would like to set up a tour may do so by calling the Art Center at 563-263-8282.

An exhibit unlike any the Art Center has hosted for some time, Alexander welcomes families with young children, those who grew up with Elephant and Piggie, and anyone who loves picture books to give this exhibit a visit. “It’s been a while since we’ve had an exhibit featuring the work of a children’s book illustrator,” Alexander remarked. “We’re most anticipating the fun of having little kids in the building.”

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