University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum hosted its annual Summer Conference July 17-19th, welcoming children’s book illustrators and authors to campus to educate, inform, and entertain those in attendance. The three-day conference brought together teachers, librarians, and book enthusiasts from around the country to learn about the artists and to hear the stories behind their work.
Mazza Museum’s Summer Conference serves as a “family reunion” for many guests, as Director Ben Sapp says that given the conference’s nearly 30-year run, the annual event is one people look forward to each year. For guest speaker and children’s book author and illustrator Matt Myers the trip to Mazza Museum was a first. “There should be more places like this! It’s really hard to find not just children’s art, but original illustrations as well,” he said.
In his presentation, Myers talked with guests about his works of art, pointing out subtle details like shadows and emotions. “Presenting is a different part of my job, and it uses a different side of the brain. It’s really fun!” he exclaimed. “I love to teach and show the process behind the illustrations.” The artist noted, “It’s not about validation for me,” adding, “It’s fun to see things click in peoples’ heads as they go ‘oh yeah, that makes sense.’”
More than 170 people from 15 different states made the trip to the University of Findlay. “We have people that come here for the midwestern, family feeling that they get at the University of Findlay,” said Sapp. “They may have attended other conferences in the past, but nothing quite like this, and that’s what makes this so special and unique.”
The nine guest artists featured at this year’s conference were initially scheduled to attend in July 2020, but all asked to reschedule. “When we moved it to a virtual format due to COVID, they all decided that they wanted to postpone their visits until they could come in person. We are happy to finally have them on campus,” Sapp said.
Jessica O’Connor drove nearly an hour to see this year’s guest speakers. She says it’s a trip that she will gladly make again and again for the Summer Conference. “I love coming to see all the artists and being surrounded by people who are as passionate about books as I am,” she said. O’Connor is a stay-at-home mom who also homeschools her five, seven, and nine-year-old children. For her, learning more about the stories and the artists allows her to further educate her kids. “Having those special insights, the breakdown of each picture, the reasoning behind the illustrations, and the illustrator’s personal attachment to each story is a beautiful thing.”
Author and illustrator, Kathryn Otoshi talked about her efforts in her book “Zero” to address not only counting, but also self-esteem. “When she looked at herself, she [the number Zero] just saw a hole…right in her center. Every day she watched the numbers line up. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7…she wanted to count, too,” Otoshi writes in her book. For guests – including O’Connor – the message was nothing short of amazing. “The story about Zero feeling empty…every time Otoshi described what her story was about, I was nearly in tears. I was like, ‘Yes, these are things I want my children to remember and learn from this story!” O’Connor revealed
To learn more about the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum, including upcoming events visit MazzaMuseum.org. The next guest artist event Mazza’s Weekend Conference, is scheduled for November 10-11, 2023.