Monday, May 15, 2017

The Must-Visit American Writers Museum That Opens Tomorrow in Chicago!

America’s – and Chicago’s - newest museum, the American Writers Museum - opens tomorrow, Tuesday, May 16 at 180 N. Michigan Avenue, down the street from Millenium Park and The Art Institute of Chicago!

Lucky me to have attended the Saturday, May 6 Special Exhibits Reception to see how successfully the AWM’s Founder Malcolm E. O’Hagan and the Founding Board Members realized their mission crafted 7 years ago: “to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives.”

Honestly, though?  IMHO this one-of-a-kind museum does so much more than engage and celebrate.  It inspires and educates while honoring what all writers do. Writers across all genres, formats and publishing designs, from Cotton Mather to Dr. Seuss.  Famous writers, of course, like those we’ve read and studied.  Writers, best of all, like you and me.

Here’s an overview of the museum’s 7-exhibition design plus a click-away video-tour:

And here are some important AWM numbers, besides 1-of-a-kind, as noted in a recent article by Chicago writer Gabrielle Zepeda:

62 – the number of affiliate institutions with whom the AWM works, such as The Will Rogers State Park noted in April’s post, the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House noted in Carla’s and William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak noted in Mary Ann’s;

100 – the number of curated works;

11,000 – the Museum’s square footage;

120,000 – the number of expected visitors;

$10,000,000 – the amount of money the museum hopes to raise by tomorrow’s opening; to date $9.2 million has been privately raised.

I was quite taken with the museum’s innovative interactive state-of-the-art exhibits, including:

the 80-foot long American Voices Gallery which presents our country’s literary history chronologically;
the ever-changing Word Waterfall;

and the Dialogue Box in the Anatomy of a Masterpiece Exhibit.

Temporary exhibits include The Writers Room's The Kerouac Scroll for ON THE ROAD and the immersive installation PALM which celebrates poet W.S. Merwin and his conservancy of palms in Hawaii.

I’m saving my favorite gallery for last, though - the Children’s
Literature Gallery!  Designed with help from children’s literature historian, critic and author Leonard S. Marcus, the space features six exhibits highlighting famous American children’s book authors and offers a place for readers and story-time listeners to interact. Mr. Marcus also made sure children’s literature is represented throughout the museum.

My favorite event of the night? Meeting Caldecott medalist Paul Zelinsky
who’d just finished painting his commissioned mural for the Children’s Literature Gallery.

The tree’s book-reading inhabitants pay homage to Paul’s Wilmette, Illinois hometown and its bounty of squirrels.  Together the book titles, purposefully chosen by Leonard Marcus, represent American Children’s Literature – the formats, the genres and best of all, the diversity of the creators.  I was happy to see Wanda Gag's MILLIONS OF CATS, Robert McCloskey’s MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, Margaret Weiss Brown’s GOOD NIGHT MOON and Crockett Johnson’s HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON as well as a Raoul Dahl title, a representative Golden Book and Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME, just to name a few. If only I’d had a ladder to climb to the very top of the 153’ x 151’ tribute. Paul has cleverly and humorously connected each squirrel’s behavior to the book he’s reading. I did learn of one title previously unknown to me – T. Yashima’s CROW BOY, published in 1955. Closer examination of the mural is certain to reveal more titles.
[Note: please forgive my not-so-terrific picture-taking!]

Click HERE to read about the American Writers Museum's exhibits, the hours, volunteer opportunities and membership.

Living a walkable 8 blocks away, I’ll be out-and-about at the AWM often and early.  Here’s hoping you, too, can find your way to America’s and Chicago’s newest museum, starting tomorrow.

Happy writer-celebrating!

Esther Hershenhorn

I’m honored to blog for the AWM.
Here are links to my first and second posts that celebrate two Chicago children’s book creators whose famous titles appear in the hands of Paul Zelinsky’s squirrels!


Ed DeCaria said...

Thanks for the sneak preview! Will be sure to visit when I'm back in Chicago ...

Jarm Del Boccio said...

Wow! Thanks for letting us know, Esther. Can't wait to visit!

Bobbi Miller said...

This will be such an amazing place! Wow! Thank you for giving us this preview!