Hickory – Mo Willems is one of the most celebrated children’s book authors and artists working today. His best-selling, internationally acclaimed, award-winning early reader series featuring best friends Elephant Gerald and Piggie hit the road in a special touring exhibition organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. “Elephant and Piggie in WE ART ART! (A Mo Willems Exhibition)” will be on view in Hickory Museum of Art’s Coe Gallery from Saturday, February 19 through Sunday, May 15, 2022. The galleries, programming, and events promote empathy and lifelong learning through the work of well-decorated, Caldecott-winning author and illustrator, Mo Willems.

Since their debut in 2007, the Elephant and Piggie characters have entertained millions of children and adults with their hilarious escapades that impart valuable lessons on manners, empathy, emotions, and – most importantly – friendship. A generation of children have learned to read with Elephant and Piggie. Featuring a selection of Willems’s original illustrations from all 25 Elephant and Piggie books, the exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view the charismatic duo first-hand. These black-and-white drawings which are supplemented with color digital renderings, early sketches, full model-drafted books, and character size charts, reveal Willems’s methodical and creative working process. The Museum’s Executive Director, Jon Carfagno, stated, “Mo Willems has said that ideas are not something you get, but rather something that you grow. This exhibition will allow our community to experience a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of one of our nation’s most celebrated talents.”

Educational Engagement for K-12 and Learners of All Ages

Welcoming this exhibition into HMA creates a space for optimism and inspiration that the world can be a better place, not just for the K12 audience, but also for learners of all ages. HMA thoughtfully developed the opportunity to align art with unique curriculum and programmatic offerings and expand its outreach and audience in the Unifour region. This project will contribute to the education and lifelong learning of Catawba County by exhibiting the work of a decorated writer and illustrator who believes that “An artist is waiting for the audience to understand the work. A craftsman is working to understand the audience.”

In addition to promoting empathy and lifelong learning, the exhibition incorporates STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) topics, including how solving real world issues can enhance our humanity. The museum’s staff has planned curriculum partnerships that will bring entire grade levels from schools across our region to the museum. The field trips will support lesson plans and project-based learning in the classroom. If you would like for your child’s school or your classroom to come tour the exhibit, contact Ginny Zellmer at [email protected]. School group tours are held Monday through Friday for groups of 10 or more and the cost is $3 a student. The 1½ hour experience includes the tour along with an art project in our education wing.

In conjunction with Elephant & Piggie, HMA’s Objects Gallery features children’s book, “Pumphrey Brothers’ The Old Truck” written and illustrated by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey. The exhibition provides a behind-the-scenes look at how the children’s book was created, exhibiting materials on loan from the Pumphrey Brothers used in their creative process. In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to create their own artwork using the same steps in their process. The Museum is developing an experience in collaboration with Lenoir Rhyne University’s “The Little Read” 2022 program with this year’s featured book, “The Old Truck.” The community-wide elementary education reading initiative of the Visiting Writers Series is designed to provide quality literature for classroom use and to involve in meaningful ways parents and other community members in the educational process. The program supports and encourages literacy development by providing interaction with a nationally recognized visiting children’s author during a spring residency week as well as providing curriculum materials, activities and resources to the local school districts.

Community Outreach

HMA’s team will tie the exhibition to our “Art for All” program through tours of the galleries and off-site teaching about exhibit themes. This initiative provides free art-making activities and access to the visual arts and cultural enrichment while focusing on inclusivity and empathy, fostering an optimistic creative process to all ages living in the Greater Hickory area.

Join us for “Storytime in the Gallery” every Wednesday through Sunday until May 15, 2022 (excluding holidays). Each day, we’ll read a selection of Mo Willems’s Elephant & Piggie books surrounded by his original drawings created for the books. In celebration of National Reading Month in March, children under 10 years of age will be entered into a drawing for an Elephant and Piggie Prize Pack each time they attend a “Storytime in the Gallery.” Readings will take place in the Coe Gallery at 2 PM on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Readings on Thursdays and Saturdays will begin at 11 AM. Guests are also invited to join us for a special Mo Willems storytime on Friday, March 11 at 2 PM. We’ll read Piggie and Elephant stories, make a special craft, and meet the characters in person! All storytime events are free of charge.

Hickory Museum of Art is located on the SALT Block, 243 3rd Avenue NE, Hickory. Admission is free. For more information about museum exhibitions, art classes, field trips, and events, visit www.HickoryArt.org or call the Museum at 828-327-8576, ext 201. Business sponsorship information is also available.