Last month, I had the honor of serving as a jury member in New York City for the Society of Illustrators’ 2011 Original Art award. The Society has already announced the illustrators selected for this year’s gallery exhibit as well as the gold and silver winners of the award, but I also wanted to highlight them here at Kirkus. To help me do so, as well as explain a bit more about the award and its history, is illustrator Amy June Bates, chair of this year’s Original Art jury.

Read the last Seven Impossible Things on Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck.

Fellow picture book enthusiasts may want to take note of Bates’ final words about the 2011 Original Art exhibit—if you can make your way to New York City this fall, it definitely will be an exciting exhibit to see.

Can you give me a brief rundown of the history of the Original Art exhibit? Who started it and why?

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This is the 31st Original Art show. It began in 1980, after a conversation between Dilys Evans and Trina Schart Hyman about how children’s book illustration had been disregarded as artwork. Dilys took it upon herself to change that by founding this exhibit. The show was a big success and 10 years later moved to its permanent home at the Society of Illustrators on East 63rd St. in New York City.

How do you choose jury members? What do they do?

Jury members are chosen annually by the current chair of the Original Art and approved by the past chairs committee. From over 500 submitted books, the jury selects about 25 percent to be in the show—and the gold and silver medal winners.


Society of Illustrators' 2011 Original Art jury, pictured left to right:

Front row: Hyewon Yum, me (Julie Danielson), Sophie Blackall, Cecilia Yung, Erin Stead

Back row: Scott Gustafson, Bates, Sean Qualls, John Bemelmans Marciano

Tell me about this year’s winners. 

This year’s Gold Medal went to Rosalyn Schanzer for her book Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem. The black-and-white scratchboard illustrations tell the story powerfully, with just the right amount of chilling red detail.

The Silver winners are: Lane Smith for his book Grandpa Green. Told with care and kindness, this book features two parallel tales of a man who loses his green 2 memory, while his garden topiaries record and retell his life. 

heart 2 Kadir Nelson for his book Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. Masterful portraits full of empathy and emotion fill this book, illustrating stories of hope and courage in the face of injustice.

What do you think the awards add to the field, particularly compared to other illustration awards? 

There certainly are other great awards, such as the Caldecott, but their objectives are a little different. Our jury is made up of five illustrators and two non-illustrators who work in the field [an editor, art director, or critic, for example]. We consider this to be the only peer-reviewed award. We are looking solely at the merit of the artwork itself. 

When does the 2011 Original Art exhibit begin and how long will it last? And approximately how many pieces will be included?

The exhibit runs from Oct. 26 to Dec. 29. There are about 130 pieces in the show. After it closes, selected works will tour throughout the U.S. for the next year. 

Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.

Photo of Jury by Laurent Linn, used with permission.