To celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1982, The University of Findlay had a wonderful idea—each of its academic departments would be awarded $2,000.00 to sponsor an event for this special occasion. Dr. Jerry Mallett, of Findlay’s Teacher Education division, had an even better idea––he proposed to his department that the funds be used to establish something of permanent value to the university, its students, and the community at large.
Dr. Mallett suggested that his department start a collection of children’s book artwork and begin inviting internationally recognized children’s authors and illustrators to speak at their institution. Four pieces of artwork started their collection, but it soon became clear that additional funds would be needed to realize the greater vision. Through the generosity of two Findlay alumni (’41) August and Aleda Mazza, the Mazza Museum was officially born. For thirty-three years now, it has continued to grow from the support of numerous volunteers and benefactors.
Today, the Mazza Museum collection includes works by writers and authors whose honors include the Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Medal, the Golden Kite Award, the Kate Greenaway Medal, and the Mazza Medallion. Exhibited works are chosen for their high quality, and the entire collection represents a great diversity of media and styles.
What started out as four pieces of artwork is now numbered at over ten thousand pieces, becoming the largest collection of children’s book artwork in the world. Although very proud of their collection, Dr. Mallett (now a curator for the Mazza Museum) likes to emphasize that Mazza is also an “educational” center. After moving to its permanent home in 1994 in the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion at The University of Findlay, it soon became apparent that the art and educational activities required additional space. In 2003 a building addition campaign commenced, and it exceeded its goal of $2,200,000.00 by over $200,000. In 2007, the year of the Mazza Museum’s 25th anniversary, the new building addition was dedicated.
The Mazza Museum
A reading at the Museum
Today, the Mazza Museum collection includes works by writers and authors whose honors include the Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Medal, the Golden Kite Award, the Kate Greenaway Medal, and the Mazza Medallion. Exhibited works are chosen for their high quality, and the entire collection represents a great diversity of media and styles. Examples given:
Media: paints, collage, photography, paper-cut, plasticine, cross-stitching, and numerous graphic techniques such as wood cut, lino cut, etching, wood engraving, potato print, and collagraph.
Styles: realistic, impressionistic, expressionistic, cartoon, surrealistic, and folk art.
Education Director Terry Olthouse explains that the Mazza Museum galleries are treated as “teaching units.” The book that inspired the exhibited artwork sits on the top shelf beneath the illustration. On a shelf beneath the picture book is a black binder that shares background information on the story, author/artist, and the artwork.Education Director Terry Olthouse explains that the Mazza Museum galleries are treated as “teaching units.”
As part of their dedication to gathering background information for a better educational experience, the Mazza Museum has for the past twenty years embarked on the yearly “Mazza Tour.” Every summer Mazza docents, librarians, and educators, tour the studios of and visit with notable children’s artists and writers to learn more about the works on exhibit at the museum. This information is then shared with museum visitors, which provides for a much richer experience.
Founding Director Jerry Mallett
Trinka Hakes Noble
This year the tour focused on children’s writers and artists in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and CWG Online was invited to Mazza’s studio visit with award-winning author Trinka Hakes Noble. Among her many accolades, Ms. Noble was awarded Outstanding Woman 2002 in Arts and Letters in New Jersey for her lifetime of work in children’s books, as well as citations from the United States Congress and Senate. She also serves as a board member for The New Jersey Center for the Book and the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature.This year the tour focused on children’s writers and artists in Pennsylvania and New Jersey…
On a sunny Father’s Day, June 21st, the Mazza Tour, consisting of 45 wonderful visitors traveling by bus from Findlay, Ohio, made its way to the beautiful and historic countryside of Jockey Hollow, New Jersey. Part of the Morristown National Historical Park, Jockey Hollow was twice used by the Continental Army for winter encampment during the American Revolutionary War. Nestled among large hardwood trees, lovely meadows, blooming gardens, and two-hundred-year-old stone walls, the Noble residence immediately reminds visitors of the area’s important place in history. Ms. Noble’s studio and adjacent circa 1780 home, situated on approximately 5 acres, are a lovely marriage of modern and historic.
Trinka Hakes Noble
Herself a Midwesterner, Trinka Hakes Noble grew up on a small farm in southern Michigan, the fifth of seven children. It was a happy childhood filled with animals, wading in creeks and roaming nearby fields. With almost enough siblings to form a baseball team, she recalls the many happy hours spent with her brothers and sisters putting on shows, forming a band, and creating clubs. “Summers seemed endless,” she says.
Her earliest memory of wanting to be an artist started with the smell of crayons that were kept in an old cigar box. “You couldn’t even recognize the different colors,” she says, “so you had to test each color by drawing on the cigar box lid. Oh, the smell when you opened that lid … ahhh … and a nice sheet of manila construction paper … my life’s requirements were met!”
But, the pivotal moment in young Trinka’s life as an artist came one Christmas morning when she unwrapped a handmade present from her father, a skilled cabinetmaker. The last present under the tree was a professional drawing board, and she knew just what to do with it. Her later work Apple Tree Christmas (Sleeping Bear Press) became a special thank you to her father, and several pieces of the original artwork from the book are now exhibited by the Mazza Museum. Sleeping Bear Press has also reissued the story in a Holiday Classic edition.
A visit to Trinka’s studio
Traveling the winding path that leads from Ms. Noble’s home to her art studio, one passes a large rock bench that husband Sandy Noble describes as “Trinka’s Thinking Rock”; a place where she “can hear herself.” As author of over thirty children’s picture books (some of which she illustrated), she has been doing a lot of thinking, and she has achieved an illustrious career that draws deeply on her rural roots.
Arriving at the art studio, visitors were encouraged to tour the two-story space that Trinka described as a “dream come true.” “A room of one’s own,” where she can write and illustrate. Though modern, the studio’s design integrates well with the nearby historic buildings. Heart pine floors, cabinets made from old barn siding, and ample windows make the space charming and bright.
Approaching Trinka’s studio
Left: Ben Sapp, Acting Director of the Museum | Right: Jerry Mallett, Founding Director and Curator of the Mazza Museum
Several beautiful pieces of furniture, all made by her father, decorate the interior: a small sewing cabinet made for her mother when her parents were courting sits in a prominent place. In the front room, a beautiful coffee table made from the trunk of a black walnut tree that grew on the family farm displays journal drawings that invite closer attention. In the loft, a bird’s eye maple table provides ample space for personal writing. On the back wall, the professional drawing board, the inspiration for an Apple Tree Christmas, holds books for future book signings.
As visitors gathered and relaxed into their seats, Ms. Noble proved herself to be not only a wonderful writer, but a captivating storyteller as she recounted her early days in Michigan and her journey as a writer/illustrator. She held an attentive audience.
Graduating from Michigan State University in 1967 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, she subsequently taught art in Michigan, Virginia, and Rhode Island. After moving to New Jersey in 1972, she studied children’s book writing and illustrating in New York City at Parsons School of Design, the New School University, and studied under Caldecott medalist Uri Shulevitz at the Greenwich Village Workshop and later New York University. After studying at Parsons School of Design, The New School University, Trinka received two commissions straight away: The King’s Tea (Dial), which she also illustrated, and The Witch Who Lost Her Shadow (Harper & Row).
Books waiting to be signed!
In addition to sharing the background on Apple Tree Christmas, Ms. Noble also discussed with visitors one of her other wonderful books The Orange Shoes (Sleeping Bear Press). When speaking of the ending to the book she explained that “When writing a story from our own childhood, we often write the ending based on what we wish we had done, thus righting a wrong.”
She also discussed her newest book The Legend of Sea Glass (release date 2016, Sleeping Bear Press), illustrated by Doris Ettlinger and upcoming book, The Ragamuffin Parade, a collaboration with British illustrator Petra Brown.
In addition to background information, Ms. Noble offered a writing exercise that she had learned as a student and which ultimately led to her celebrated Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash (Dial), illustrated by Steven Kellogg: “Try writing the story backwards.”
Two of Trinka’s Illustrations
The day went by far too soon for all of the Mazza Museum guests whose enthusiasm for sharing children’s literature and literacy was a delight. The list of other studio stops included: Deborah Kogan Ray, Matt Phelan, Judy Schachner, and Elisa Primavera. Visits also with: Jerry and Eileen Spinelli, David Wiesner, E.B. Lewis, Roger Roth, Floyd Cooper, Lee Harper, Ponder Goembel, Margery Cuyler, Gennady Spirin, Robert Byrd, Bill Thomson, Herman Parish, Ame Dyckman, and Wendy Pfeffer. The tour ran from June 16 through June 23rd and included Mazza Museum acting Director Ben Sapp and founding Director Dr. Jerry Mallett.
Ms. Noble commented: “Having the Mazza Museum tour my studio was a joy! To have such caring, supportive and appreciative visitors in my studio was definitely one of the high points of 2015! Simply put, Mazza folks are the BEST!”
The day was a high point for CWG Online as well, and we thank Ms. Noble, her husband Sandy, and the Mazza Museum for allowing us to share the fun!
CWG Online Editors on a wonderful visit with a great artist–and a good friend!
For more information about The Mazza Museum, visit the Museum’s web site. You can also learn more about Trinka Hakes Noble’s work on her web site.