125 West Bay Rd.
Amherst, MA 01002
$4.00-Seniors 65 or better
$3.00-Youth 1-18, Students
(2 adults, up to 4 kids)
Eric Carle Page
Official Robert Sabuda
Official Van Allsburg
Re-Living Your Childhood at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
by Keon Ruiter
One day, a few weeks ago, I
found myself drawing lots of triangles on a small sheet of paper with
crayons. I was sitting in a
tiny children’s chair, only about two feet off the ground in a
pleasant sunlit room. I must
have been the only adult there. When
I was done doodling, I took a small container of blue watercolor and
completely painted over my masterpiece.
You’d assume I ruined my
piece of art, or maybe that I’m completely nuts, but the kids and I
were simulating an art technique called batik.
Funny thing is, yesterday, I found myself in the same place
making more art. I hadn’t
had so much fun since I was a finger-painting pre-schooler.
This place with the little
chairs and the little kids that I keep going back to is called the Eric
Carle Museum of Children’s Book Art.
It is a museum sitting in an apple orchard on the edge of
’s campus in
Amherst, and is dedicated to children’s book art and its admirers.
Eric Carle is a children’s
book author and illustrator. He
is most famous for his popular book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” a story about the transformation of a little caterpillar into a
beautiful butterfly. I grew
up with Carle’s books. Even
if you don’t know who he is, you’re sure to recognize some of the
other featured artists in the museum.
The grand opening of
the museum was two years ago, but the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
was actually a seven-year project. Eric
Carle and his wife, Barbara Carle, came up with the idea in 1995.
Originally, it was planned to be an 800-square-foot building but
with time, it grew into a 40,000-square-foot structure.
The museum was funded with donations from 850 private
contributors and from publishers Penguin Putnam Inc. and
Every detail was considered
during construction including the bathroom tiles.
To my surprise, images of the animals from Carle’s book,
“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” are etched into the tiles
on the walls. It’s the first
museum of its kind in the
and well worth the time to meander through the galleries.
To date, over 150,000 people have done so.
The museum is unlike any other
that I have been to. Instead
of being dark and stuffy, it is bright and full of light.
It opens up into the “great hall,” which is painted
white and lined from floor to ceiling with windows.
Four huge murals in red, green, blue, and yellow, painted
by Carle, hang on the wall opposite the windows and add color and
depth to the room.
Every other room in the museum
is lighted just as much as the great hall with the exception of
the galleries. The
firs time I walked into the galleries, I was shocked because it
was so dark. Let
your eyes adjust before exploring because it is really hard to
see at first. Apparently,
the paintings will fade if they are exposed to a lot of light.
The museum features three
galleries that are modestly named the east, center, and west galleries.
The art of Eric Carle is always in the west gallery.
When I went the first time, the center gallery featured the art
of Robert Sabuda, and acclaimed pop-up artist, and Van Allburg’s
Children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle is best known for his book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969). Carle began his career as a graphic designer for the New York Times and later became the art director for an advertising agency. It was not until later when he became involved in children’s books. His first Children’s book illustrations were for “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” when author Bill Martin Jr. contacted him to illustrate the story. Since then Carle has illustrated and written over 70 books for kids. His most recent release is called “10 Little Rubber Ducks” and is due out in June 2005.
was in the east. The second
time I went, the east gallery featured the many illustrators of Margaret
Wise Brown’s children’s books.
east gallery featuring the work of Eric Carle’s
colleague, Chris Van Allsburg brought back a wave of nostalgic feelings.
When I was in the second
grade, my teacher used to read Chris Van Allsburg’s books to us.
In every Van Allsburg book, there is a little white bull terrier
with a spot over one eye. His
name is Fritz. Sometimes
Fritz is hidden away and only part of him is visible and sometimes he is
a part of the story. My
teacher told us that it was our job to try and find Fritz in each book
we read. It was a fun part
of story time that I had forgotten, and roaming through the museum
caused it to come rushing back to me and I found myself scouring each
drawing to see if Fritz was in it.
The museum rotates the art
periodically to keep things interesting and to keep people like me going
back. In the past, artists
such as Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss have been featured.
Future exhibitions this year include, "Beatrix Potter in
America," "Ashley Bryan" Retrospective,” and “The Art of Alice Provensen.”
Though Carle’s are always inhabits the west gallery, different
pictures are rotated through there as well.
There is an interactive
quality to the museum. Both times I went I did not have enough time to do
everything. I opted out of
visiting the museum library both times in favor of visiting the art
studio instead. The library
houses children’s books from all over the world for visitors to look
at, and it is crammed with comfy chairs.
There is also an
auditorium where movies are played and performances.
The studio focuses on the
different forms of art featured in the galleries.
When I first visited the museum, I tried my hand at the batik
technique and the second time, I experimented with collage art.
At other times, visitors can create pop-up art and sculpture.
Artist Robert Sabuda, who was featured in the center gallery, used the batik technique in his book,
“The Blizzard’s Robe.” Batik
is the art of repeatedly applying hot wax to fabric and then dipping it
into different dyes to create a picture.
The studio offered crayons and watercolor to emphasize the
contrast instead of using hot wax and real dye, which could be dangerous for young children. Eric
Carle is famous for using collages in his books.
Normally, he utilizes acrylic, crayon, and tissue paper in his
illustrations. I used
construction paper and magazine clippings for my collage.
The studio is staffed with art
students and other art professionals, and activities are divided
according to age group. A
woman named Robin helped me out both times I visited.
She’s an art student at
and like all the staff at the museum she seemed to enjoy her job. “The
studio is a fun way to get kids involved in the art they saw in the
galleries,” she told me. It
also features special workshops with guest artists, but those events
require advanced registration and sometimes also additional fees.
So how was my batik?
Let’s just say I’m definitely no artist.
This website was created by the students of Journalism 375 at the University of Massachusetts 2005