Acclaimed children’s author and illustrator Mo Willems to have new exhibit at the Children’s Museum from Feb. 17 to Sept. 2.

By: Nick Eustis

 

The pigeon can’t drive the bus, but the kids certainly can.

Come February, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, in association with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, will debut a special exhibit — “The Pigeon Comes to Pittsburgh: A Mo Willems Exhibit,” based on the work of children’s author and illustrator Mo Willems.

“We launched down a road that we always wanted to do, and that is to work with award-winning children’s authors and artists to make the two-dimensional, three-dimensional,” said marketing director Bill Schlageter.

The Children’s Museum previously worked with the Massachusetts-based Eric Carle Museum on the successful 2015 exhibit “Very Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit.” The collaboration was something the Museum has wanted to do for some time, according to Schlageter.

The interactive exhibition is based on five of Willem’s acclaimed children’s books, including “Knuffle Bunny,” “Elephant and Piggie,” “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed” and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,” which inspired the exhibit’s title.

Mo Willems started his career in 1993, writing and animating for nine years on the classic PBS show, “Sesame Street.” He would receive 6 Emmy Awards for writing during his tenure. After leaving “Sesame Street” in 2002, Willems went on to write and illustrate several children’s book series. The “Pigeon” and “Knuffle Bunny” series would go on to win three Caldecott Medals, one of the highest honors in children’s literature.

Director of exhibit design Anne Fullenkamp and her team began working with Willems and Eric Carle staff in July 2016. The design process began that fall.

Fullenkamp said she worked with Willems to determine which of his books were best to reference. Her design team would then begin to brainstorm experiences for visitors.

“It’s very much an iterative process where we try something, see what happens, and go from there,” Fullenkamp said.

Experiences in “Pigeon Comes to Pittsburgh” will include a wearable bus allowing kids to “drive” around the exhibit, a Naked Mole Rat fashion show, a phone booth that alters voices to sound like Elephant and Piggie, as well as a piece of 19th century animation technology to bring pictures of Elephant and Piggie to life.

Pictures also feature prominently in the exhibit, because Mo Willems is an illustrator as well as an author. The exhibit will teach children about Willem’s drawing process, and include video segments featuring Willems.

“We always want to share with our visitors that Mo is a real person and that he draws all these characters,” Fullenkamp said.

Just as Willems creates these characters, this exhibit will bring those characters to life. For kids, that’s what is most important.

“Our mission is to create experiences that inspire joy, creativity and curiosity,” Schlageter said. “I want [children] to walk away with the delight of an experience around Mo Willems’ characters.”

“The Pigeon Comes to Pittsburgh” will open Feb. 17 and will be on display until Sept. 2. The exhibit will then begin a nationwide tour.

For more information on the exhibit visit Children’s Museum website.