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'It's a living book inside the library.' - Israel Designs 'Wild Things' Exhibit for Columbus Library

The Columbus Public Library and the Chattahoochee Valley Library Association opened an exhibit today that is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see. Maurice Sendak: The Memorial Exhibition – 50 Years – 50 Works – 50 Reasons consists of 50 original drawings and sketches by the legendary author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are.

Bringing this exhibit to life has been a community affair involving educators, librarians, and artists working tirelessly to ensure that visitors experience Sendak's art and work in an immersive way. Local artist and Columbus State University professor Hannah Israel designed the exhibit and executed its installation with her team.

We spoke with Israel for a behind-the-scenes look into the artist's process of developing Maurice Sendak: The Memorial Exhibition – 50 Years – 50 Works – 50 Reasons into what she calls 'a living book that lives inside the library.'

Hannah Israel inside the S.S. Max - built to be completely accessible for children to immerse themselves in the story while visiting the exhibit.

Q: What was your role in developing this exhibit?

A: The Library approached me to design the Maurice Sendak Memorial Exhibition.  They were very specific and imaginative in what they wanted to see happen.  I asked my friend and artist, Jon Lumpkin to collaborate with me on this.  It's been an adventure for both of us.  it's a different approach that he and I have in our own artistic work.  For this project, we used our imagination and memories from when we were kids. We knew we wanted it to be immersive and playful as if you were in the book.  I love to think that it's a living book that lives inside the library.

 We also asked three students to assists on this project, Yun Praught, Abigail Lloyd and Angela Pham.  It's been so much fun and working with the Library and making Sendak's, Where the Wild Things Are, come to life.

Q: What were the particular challenges you and your team faced when designing and executing the plan to transform this section of the library into various scenes from the book?

A: This project was a good challenge, It enabled me to be outside of my comfort zone of the white cube model.  The biggest challenge is the scale of the building and the rooms.  I have worked on large rooms before but the height and organic curves of the library made it more complicated.   I did go into the design thinking to treat each of the rooms as pages in the book.  To create an immersion for the audience.  I also had to make sure that the exhibition reflected the artworks from the collection.  This commemorative exhibition includes many of Maurice Sendak's 60 year long career, including original illustrations from Where the Wild Things Are, Little Bear, and other books.  

I grew up reading Where the Wild Things Are, and every time I hear and read the words, "Let the wild rumpus start," I still can't help thinking of being mischievous and being naughty.  I was a wild and mischievous child. So I wanted to make sure that we added lots of WILDNESS in the exhibition.

Numerous original pieces are included in the exhibit, including sketches of some of the first Wild Things and illustrations from Sendak's other books.

Q: What is your favorite element?

A: This is a difficult question.  My favorite element is making sure that children and adults will find the exhibition a reflection of their past, future, and present.  There's something magical about this book that stood the test of time and I believe that part of touring this collection and CVLC investing in this program is that it would bring joy and wonderment to Columbus. CVLC is an amazing place that touches, teaches, and nurtures our community, bringing in an exhibition like this is a reflection of the creative ideas that come from our public library. 

Teens at one of the Columbus Public Library's educational programs designed and developed these 3-D prints of Max and his dog.

Q: How do you personally feel that art teaches children life lessons?

A: Art matters and it's is so important to the development of our children. Art stimulates thinking and curiosity. Art encourages dialogue, connections, growth, and problem-solving. Art teaches empathy, individuality, and community.  

Visitors can look through the window into Max's jungle bedroom, and visit The Wild Rumpus Room where they can dress up for photos and play make believe.

5) Why did you want to be involved in this project?

 When I heard that the exhibition was about Where the Wild Things Are, I was immediately hooked.  My lightbulb grew brighter and my imagination just said yes.  

If You Go:

What: Maurice Sendak: The Memorial Exhibition – 50 Years – 50 Works – 50 Reasons

When: April 13- May 25

Where: Columbus Public Library, Grand Reading Room on the second floor of the Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road

Cost: Free! Contact:

More to Know:

The Columbus Library will also be offering tours, programs, and special events for children, teens and grown-ups. This programming will culminate in a WILD RUMPUS on May 11th. Readers of all ages will be invited to see the exhibit and enjoy various activities throughout the day.

Guided school and group tours will also be available.

Stay tuned for more information about an upcoming tour with The Columbusite and Hannah Israel in May. We'd love to have you! Click here to subscribe for updates on scheduling!

*Need information about a sensory friendly tour? Reach out to us here to communicate your interest and we'll work with the library to arrange a time for you and your children to see the exhibit during quiet hours.

The exhibit is free to the public, and runs through May 25th in the Grand Reading Room on the second floor of the Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road.◼︎


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