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“Chief Dickens” illustration by Father Giuliani, a featured illustrator at The Brinton Museum in February.

What’s more fun than elementary school children’s art, storybook illustrations, dogs, wizards and a full moon?

The Brinton Museum will again present the “All-Schools 5th Grade Student Art Show” and also the “16th Illustrator Show," opening to the public in February.

The student art shows have been a tradition since 2002 when the museum hosted an exhibit of elementary art from the Big Horn Elementary School. When The Brinton moved into the state-of-the-art Forrest E. Mars, Jr. Building in 2015, the decision was made to broaden the scope of the student show the following year to include a greater number of schools in the area, but limiting submission to fifth-grade students. In this way, all schools could participate while keeping the event to a controllable size.

The first year’s fifth-grade show reception was attended by more than 280 students, teachers and parents. Each year sees a growth in this community-wide program with the art projects becoming more creative and sophisticated. From renditions of cave drawings on crumpled brown paper, to bright color balloons made of paper maché, to complex wall mosaics, to self-portraits and stories by Crow students from Wyola School in Montana, enthusiasm and creativity abound.

Ongoing COVID-19 restrictions will keep a reception from happening this year. However, in lieu of a reception, the art teachers will be part of an online video program sharing the inspirations behind each class' art project. This show continues through March 1 during regular museum hours.

For 2021, the museum’s “16th Illustrator Show” takes a look back on 15 years of exhibits. The Illustrator Show — successful in bringing art to the schools and school tours to The Brinton — has included an exceptionally talented roster of artists since the first exhibit in 2002. That show featured Gerald L. Holmes (1940-2019), artist and illustrator of John R. Erickson’s charming “Hank the Cowdog” children’s book series.

Holmes was so popular the Brinton had him back five years later. The list of illustrators is indubitably impressive. In 2006, Paul Goble (1933-2017), award-winning author and illustrator who studied at the Central School of Art in London, exhibited original illustrations, on loan from the South Dakota Art Museum and the artist, from 20 of his 34 books.

The featured artist in 2007 was James Warhola, author and illustrator of “Uncle Andy’s: A Faabbbulous Visit with Andy Warhol, "Uncle Andy’s Cats” and numerous other books. If the name sounds familiar, and it does, Warhola's artistic inspiration was influenced in part by his iconic, famous uncle, pop artist Andy Warhol.

Subsequent shows featured art by award-winning members of the prestigious Society of Illustrators as well as Randolph Caldecott Medal recipients. The coveted Caldecott award recognizes the most distinguished American picture books for children.

Wonderful storybook illustrations from such timeless classics as “Jack and the Beanstalk," “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” have been on exhibit in The Brinton Museum galleries, along with art illustrations from recently published popular children’s books, including “Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic," illustrated by Victor Juhasz from Averill Park, New York; “My Radio Flyer Flew," written and illustrated by Zachary Pullen from Casper; and “No, David!” by author and artist David Shannon from Los Angeles, California, as a few examples.

A highlight of this year’s show is original artwork from The Brinton’s own “The Dickens of the Bradford Brinton Memorial & Museum,” which was the featured exhibit in 2012 together with “Dogs, Dinosaurs and Daydreams," a show by artist Mark Teague, the author and illustrator of the comical canine character Ike LaRue series and illustrator of numerous other popular children’s picture books.

Art aside, perhaps the most rewarding benefit of the Illustrator Show has always been the school tours. What is more magical than that look of wonderment in a child’s eyes as an artist talks about the antics of “Finn McCool and the Great Fish," or about Carl, an inquisitive chipmunk and his animal friends as they learn all about art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson?

Art. It’s the heart and soul of learning. Combine this with children and the recipe for education is almost complete. School tours for this year’s Illustrator Show are encouraged and can be scheduled by calling Lacasa Michelena at The Brinton Museum at 307-687-5972. Children aside, the Illustrator Show is also for adults who have never lost a love of children’s stories. And, heavens, why would we?

Barbara McNab is curator of exhibitions at The Brinton Museum. 

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