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Chester County Press

Rooted exhibit guaranteed to tap into power of childhood memories

10/18/2023 06:52PM ● By Caroline Roosevelt
Rooted exhibit guaranteed to tap into power of childhood memories [2 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

The memories of childhood have staying power unlike anything else in my conscious mind. If you asked me what I bought at the grocery store yesterday and then asked me what my favorite sweater was in third grade, I would be able to name you none of the groceries and maybe four or five sweaters in my top ten wardrobe list from 1993. 

The incredibly fresh and malleable minds of our early years provide us with sharp memories of our favorite things, and I am sure each of us have at least one children’s book that brings back waves of wonder and awe when passing it in the library or bookstore. 

The Brandywine River Art Museum is tapping into that magnificent energy of those literary treasures with its current exhibition, “Rooted: Family and Nature in Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration” curated by Audrey Lewis and Shadra Strickland.

Brandywine’s associate curator Audrey Lewis and Shadra Strickland, the chairperson of the illustration department at Maryland Institute College of Art, co-curated the exhibit. 

“This is an exhibition we started working on about a year ago, when the Museum had wanted to create a children’s exhibition,” Lewis said. “We reached out to Shadra to be a co-curator because we wanted her expertise in contemporary children’s illustration and her background as educator and illustrator herself. That was the collaboration and then we worked together to find themes that we thought would work well.”

Rooted showcases the work of eight contemporary children’s book illustrators: Micha Archer, Sophie Blackall, Cozbi A. Cabrera, Joe Cepeda, Devon Holzwarth, Juana Martinez-Neal, Frank Morrison and Qing Zhuang. 

Strickland said that selecting the exhibit’s artists was a combination of Lewis’ research and the artists that Strickland admires. 

“It really was a collaboration,” she said. “We really used the theme of family and nature to nail down our artists, but we wanted a really nice diverse group of people and a diverse group of families represented for the show and I think we accomplished that.”

With more than 75 illustrations on view (by several Caldecott-winning artists), visitors of all ages will be immersed in the colorful, lively paintings created with a variety of materials, including acrylic, oil, watercolor, pastels, colored pencils, linocuts, woodcuts, ink and collage. To make the exhibition even more engaging to children, the works of art will be installed at a lower height ensuring that young visitors can be properly immersed in the vibrant artwork.

 Rooted follows on the success of two earlier Brandywine exhibitions centered on children: Get the Picture: Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration (2016) and Holidays & Snow Days: Illustrations for Three Children's Books (2018-19). 

Rooted is a continuation of the rich tradition of illustration that is so well represented in Brandywine's collection beginning early in the twentieth century by artists such as Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Jesse Willcox Smith,” Lewis said. “It is thrilling to see how artists today connect to and expand upon that tradition with new stylistic approaches and creating a much more diverse group of characters. Through exhibitions like these and a robust slate of programming geared toward children and families, the Brandywine is committed to developing and nurturing the next generation of museum goers.”

Rooted: Family and Nature in Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration will be on display at the Brandywine River Museum of Art through February 28, 2024. The museum will also host programming throughout the exhibit. Advance reservations are recommended. For more information, call (610) 388-2700 or visit

Rooted exhibit guaranteed to tap into power of childhood memories