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Illustration exhibit brings children’s stories to life

Courtesy photo

Like many adults who love to read, Rebecca Richards treasures her memories of the picture books she loved as a child and that she read later to her children.

By her estimation, she owns nearly 300 children’s books – and like most readers, she admires them just as much for the pictures as the text.

So the spring exhibit at the Belmont Gallery of Art is particularly meaningful for Richards.

“Books on the Charles – 25 years of Charlesbridge Picture Book Illustrators,” which Richards cocurated along with Watertown artist Leslie Evans, celebrates 15 New England-based picture book artists who have created art for Charlesbridge Books, a children’s book publisher located in Watertown.


“I’ve always wanted to showcase original works from children’s books in a gallery setting, so people could admire the work for the fine art that it is,” Richards said. “I think this exhibit brings back that sense of fun and wonder we had as children visiting a world of imagination created by picture book illustrators.”

Among the artists whose work is featured in the exhibit is Alan Witschonke of Natick. He started his career as an artist in the advertising, marketing, and corporate sectors; in the 1990s he decided to try his hand at illustrating children’s books. Among his better-known projects is a series on the manmade wonders of the world, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Great Wall, and the Taj Mahal.

Research is critical when working with fact-based text, he said.

“The challenge is to be historically accurate but also to keep it fun. I tried to do that by making the illustrations for those books colorful, but when you are doing nonfiction work, you have to stick with what really happened. You can’t do the kind of bizarre and wonderful and fanciful pictures you can do with children’s fiction.”


Wayne Geehan of Acton, whose career illustrating books for Charlesbridge began about 15 years ago, works with fiction, but he stresses that drawing upon fact as well as imagination is part of his approach as well.

“What an illustrator does is take the words in the story and go far beyond what’s already there,” he said. It’s much more than just reading the text and dreaming up a scene to go with it, according to Geehan.

“The illustrator has to do research on the book,” Geehan said. “For example, I’m the illustrator for the ‘Sir Cumference’ series by Cindy Neuschwander, about a knight who solves math problems. The books take place in medieval times, so I’ve done a lot of research about what castles of that era looked like, what people wore. Illustrating children’s books is like being a set designer and a costume designer and a director all in one. I have to look at the story from different viewpoints.”

“Books on the Charles” can be viewed at the Belmont Gallery of Art through May 17. An artists’ reception and book-signing will take place April 13 from 2 to 5 p.m.

The gallery is located in the Homer Building, Town Hall Complex, 19 Moore St., Belmont Center. For hours and more information, go to www.belmontgallery.org.

APPRECIATE JAZZ: Kick off Jazz Appreciation Month with a concert by the faculty of the Concord Conservatory of Music Friday at 7 p.m. at the West Concord Union Church, 1317 Main St, Concord. The performance, a tribute to the heritage of jazz as an original American art form, features faculty members Carlos Averhoff Jr. on saxophone, Ehud Ettun on bass, Brian Friedland on piano, and Jorge Perez-Albela on percussion playing classic jazz compositions, standards, and originals. Admission is free.


Also celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month will be Joy Reo in her concert debut at the Acton Jazz Café on Saturday at 7 p.m. The café is located at 103 Nagog Park Mall, Acton. A full bar and dinner menu are available throughout the concert. Tickets are $11.50 if purchased on line; $12.50 at the door. For tickets or more information, call 978-263-6161 or go to www.actonjazzcafe.com.

“MUSIC OF THE MASTERS:” On Saturday at 8 p.m., Lexington Symphony presents the fifth concert of its 2013-2014 “Music of Masters” season at Cary Hall, 1605 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington. The program explores the idea that the sum of the parts of a musical piece can be greater than any distinct characteristic or sound. Included in the evening’s lineup is Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Martin’s Concerto for 7 Wind Instruments, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. A pre-concert talk with Maestro Jonathan McPhee will be offered at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50/$40/$30 (students $15) and can be purchased online at www.lexingtonsymphony.org, by telephone at 781-523-9009, or at the door.

KOSHER GOSPEL: The 25th Annual Project Manna Concert, presented by Sisterhood Temple Emanuel, offers song and spirit on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward St., Newton. Admission is $25 adults, $20 seniors/students, with proceeds to benefit the Mass Avenue Baptist Church Food Pantry & Soup Kitchen. For more information, go to www.templeemanuel.com/Project Manna Concert.


ART ACROSS NEWTON: Newton holds its 18th annual spring open studios event this weekend from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, with 170 emerging and established artists exhibiting at 45 locations all across Newton. The stops are listed on a full-featured website and in a printed guide. Free parking is available at all sites. Red balloons mark the locations. For more information, go to www.newtonopenstudios.org.

OPERA AT THE LIBRARY: The Friends of the Marlborough Public Library and the Paternoster Memorial Opera Trust present “Primavera Opera Classics,” featuring familiar arias and a selection of contemporary favorites, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Bigelow Auditorium, Marlborough Public Library, 35 West Main St., Marlborough. Admission is free, but any donations received at the concert will go to the Paternoster Fund, interest from which will be used to purchase opera-related materials to add to the library’s opera collection. For more information, go to www.mpl-friends.org.

Send ideas to nancyswest@gmail.com.