“If Art had one flaw, it was that he was often mean to his sister Esther. But that was all before the amazing Christmas of 1908. Before the Great Adventure. Before the mysterious box arrived and changed young Art forever.”--Santa Calls, William Joyce
It can be said that the book, Santa Calls, arriving in Abilene in 1993 was the mysterious box that ended up changing Abilene forever. Dr. Gary McCaleb, Mayor of Abilene at the time, read this book to an elementary school class, all the while being inspired to envision a world in which the artwork of children’s picture books could be honored and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature was born.
I had the privilege to grow up in Abilene, Texas. Our community is one of dreamers and doers. Nothing is more evident in that sentiment than the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Who would have thought to dream up an institution in the heart of West Texas to celebrate art from children’s books? To treat this art with the respect and dignity it deserves? To celebrate a collection of work from illustrations from children’s literature? To preserve and conserve it for the years to come? To introduce a love of art and culture to children and families at no charge? To instill an appreciation for fine art at an early age? Those who dream in Abilene. And then they went to work.
Last year alone we hosted 155 classrooms and over 3,700 students. To date we have organized close to 60 art exhibitions and have reached almost a quarter of a million people in Abilene and surrounding areas with our free programming. That’s right. Free. Every child and family has access to fine art experiences at no charge. It’s truly extraordinary.
I grew up in a family with a lot of love but little money. My mother had a passion for art and instilled, very early on, that it must be celebrated. We didn’t have money to attend every show or exhibit in and around our community, but we heard about them from clippings mama made. We maybe never saw each piece of art, but rather felt it through images and the love she radiated from enabling us to see it in anyway. To have a place like the NCCIL...here for any and everyone free of charge...is very much personally special to me.
At our core, the NCCIL has and will continue to hold steadfast to our mission: to exhibit, tour, collect, preserve and promote original art from the finest children’s literature. We cling to our vision of inspiring and empowering young people to read and be creative in the Abilene community…and beyond. We are proud to be the first glimpse into the world of fine art for many children and to provide world-class experiences to any and every one, at no cost. Our work is valuable, it is important and it is vital.
And it’s all made possible because of generous donors and members. By partnering with us, it means more than dollars. It means delivering books to local schools, putting art supplies in the hands of eager young artists, and giving children of all ages, of every race, creed and gender an outlet to create, to dream big and express themselves in ways only art allows.
It’s an honor to be a part of the NCCIL story. All of the insanely talented artists we’ve had the opportunity to celebrate over the years and the responsibility that comes with organizing exhibitions worthy of their work is an incredible gift. I am grateful for the men and woman who built this organization over the last two decades and, because of their hard work, have changed lives.
They certainly changed mine.
To the visionaries, dreamers, and doers: thank you.
“Art held his sister tightly as whatever sadness and loneliness he had ever felt melted away, and the Man in the Moon himself seemed to bid them farewell. ‘The world is more full of wonders than I ever knew,’ he said in a whisper.” –Santa Calls, William Joyce
The NCCIL is a gift for the ages. This is our time with her. Here’s to the next 20 years of more great adventures.
In all things art, culture and literature,