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Last week I was hosted by Mrs. Chrystal Carr-Jeter and the Cleveland Public Library in conjunction with BloomsburyUSA, for the opening of OUR CHILDREN CAN SOAR, a traveling exhibition the 12 original paintings from the book. If you are in Cleveland, please stop by to see the work. Paintings will be on display until February 13, 2010.  What an amazing time! I was given the royal treatment from the time I arrived to the time of my departure.

I arrived Thursday morning and once settled in, was whisked away to my first speaking engagement at Cleveland School of the Arts. It was a combined presentation with about 100 kids or so in the school cafeteria. We had a great time talking about art, their enthusiasm for the arts and reading, and how to make good choices from the examples they read about in books.

Exchange of the day

AWESOME KID A: “Where can we find your books?”
ME: “You can find my books in all major bookstores and online booksellers”
AWESOME KID B: “And in the library!”
ME: “YES! Especially in the library!!!”

AWESOME KIDS GROUP SHOT (click to enlarge)


Next we were off to the Martin Luther King branch of CPL where I shared ideas with librarians about how to show the exhibition, do a sound check, and get ready for the reception! I met more great librarians and was inspired by local Cleveland talent. Huge props to ChiefRocka Q-Nice, our spoken word artist of the evening, and local poet/genetic engineer, Sir Joshua.

The highlights of the night were performances by Q-Nice, a performance of “I Believe I Can Fly”, sung by Joshua Delk, from Cleveland School of the Arts, and a dramatic interpretation from Our Children Can Soar.

Afterward I shared a presentation of my work and talked a bit about my experience of illustrating Ruby Bridges as she took her first courageous step into history.

Exchange of the evening

CSA Higher Campus student: “If you could trade places with any of the pioneers on the wall, who would you choose and why?”
ME: “Ha! All of those shoes are much too large for me to fill, I have a hard enough time trying to walk around in my own.”

The evening was a success! I met wonderful people, sold some art, and sold all of the books that were made available by A Cultural Exchange.

The next morning I was greeted by Mrs. Carr-Jeter and escorted to the Cleveland Institute of Art where I spoke to a few graduating seniors in the illustration department headed by Dominic Scibilia and high school students from Cleveland’s NEXT generation program. I was slotted to do one talk but we were able to get two presentations in with two different groups. I was super impressed with the four students who presented and the overall quality of work from the illustration department.

Next we headed over to Woodland Hills Elementary School where I spoke to a couple of fourth/fifth grade classes. The class was full of very talented students who shared their enthusiasm of drawing with me. I read BIRD aloud, shared with them OUR CHILDREN CAN SOAR and talked about my life as an artist and the work behind the work.

I also met and was shown work by Cleveland’s own hidden talent, Mr. Ty Moore, teacher by day, artist by night.

Exchange of the day

AWESOME KID A: “What made you keep drawing from when you were a kid?”
ME: “Do you like to draw”
ME: “That feeling right there, that’s why I keep drawing. It never goes away even when you grow up. ”

After running around all day on red hot candy and two peanut butter cookies (inside joke for Mrs. Jeter), we slowed it down and enjoyed a wonderful meal at Cleveland Fish Market. Later that evening I met up with a good friend from SVA for some air hockey and finally called it a night.

Exchange of the night

ME: “What do you call cheese that doesn’t belong to you?”
16 year old KWANADA: (thinking aloud) “What do you call ch….NA-CHO CHEESE!!!!!!”
EVERYONE: “pahahahahahahahahaha!”

The next morning I was escorted by John Jarvey a retiree from Cleveland Teacher’s Academy and member of the *Sugarman Children’s Biography Award Jury (which I will discuss more about at NCTE next week) to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see the Paul Gauguin, Paris 1939 exhibition. Mrs. Jeter met me back at my hotel for hugs and thank yous and I was off back to the real world.

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Thank you to everyone who played a part in the trip! I had a wonderful time.

*special thanks to P. Cummings who reminded me that the 12th was on a Thursday and not Friday! wouldn’t have made it without you~