Art of Arthur’s author displayed in Mulvane

Photo courtesy The Review archive.

Regina Budden

Arthur the Aardvark walked off a book page and into the Mulvane Art Museum this summer when the museum displayed the artwork of Marc Brown, Arthur’s author and illustrator.

“The Art of Marc Brown: A Retrospective” started June 20 and will continue through Sept. 13. The displayed work focuses on Brown’s development as an illustrator through the illustrations and authorship of his book series about Arthur the aardvark and his family. The series is now a television show that runs regularly on PBS.

The museum brought Brown’s work into the gallery to involve the community’s youth, said Carol Emert, Mulvane curator. Cindi Morrison, museum director, oversaw this exhibit in the museum at Lancaster, Penn., where it was very successful among the younger patrons.

“Her goal was to have a family friendly exhibit,” said Emert, adding that the children are more likely to come to the Arthur display because children are familiar with the TV stories and the books.

Alongside Brown’s artwork on the wall are panels of information about how Brown began illustrating and writing, which Emert said helps the kids relate to the artist.

“Children start somewhere,” she said, “[This] opens up new possibilities for them, visually.”

Emert said having exhibits that kids want to see is beneficial because they may initially come to see Arthur, but they’ll be exposed to the other artwork in the museum.

But it’s not only the visual aspects of Brown’s art that can draw kids in. Downstairs in the ArtLab, the activities relate to the upstairs exhibits. Jane Hanni, an ArtLab supervisor, instructs the children on how to use a cartoon storyboard to brainstorm story ideas.

“We talk about the simple shapes that Marc Brown uses,” said Hanni. The storyboards also combine writing elements with art elements. “The ArtLab gives a hands-on way to relate to the hands-off activities upstairs,” she said.

Hanni said that the ArtLab had a lot of activity this summer because of the Arthur display. KTWU hosted a “family day” event that featured someone in an Arthur costume who took pictures and played with the kids. But Hanni’s favorite Arthur-related activity was when Kim Brown hosted an art lesson. Kim is one of Marc Brown’s three sisters, who were the inspirations for Arthur’s sister, D.W.

The activities also appealed to Arthur’s older fans. Kathy Wilmore, media specialist at Lowman Hill Elementary library, toured the exhibit and ArtLab activities. Although she viewed other exhibits in the museum, Wilmore said she came specifically to see Arthur because she “taught Marc Brown units to first-graders since about five years after he got started.”

Wilmore said that now she has seen the exhibit and accompanying ArtLab activities, she is excited to see if she can get some of her classes from school to come.

“We don’t have much time for art in public schools anymore,” said Wilmore. “Children generally have big ideas about being sports heroes or singers or artists. It’s nice to show them that yes, you can become an artist that makes a living.”