Throughout the Keene State College community, Rhodes Hall may seem like any other academic building on campus, however it holds more than just offices and classrooms; its walls are lined with hundreds of pieces of artwork.
The collection is of children’s literature illustrations and was brought to KSC by Education Professor and Founder of the KSC Children’s Literature Festival Dr. David White
“In 1978, I started an annual Children’s Literature Festival where we bring well-known authors and illustrators to Keene to speak,” White said.
The collection of works is known better as the Children’s Literature Festival Gallery and was introduced to Rhodes Hall in 1990.
White said that when he first began creating the collection, he purchased a few pieces himself. Today, about half the illustrations in the building were donated by the artists.
According to White, the collection has since increased to around 200 artists.
The artwork has drawn attention to Rhodes Hall. White said, “Someone was in here (Rhodes) a little while ago and said her roommate came with her the other day and said she had never seen any of this before.”
KSC sophomore Sean Jablon said he first heard about the artwork from a friend taking a class in Rhodes Hall and was surprised by the size of the collection.
Associate Professor of Education Dr. Shirley McLoughlin works in Rhodes Hall and mentioned how often students are observing the pieces. She said, “Especially toward the end of the school year, you’ll see teachers bringing their whole classes to look at some of them (the artwork).”
Not only do students on-campus make a point to visit Rhodes to gaze at the illustrations, but people come from around the world to get involved with the collection.
White said the collection started with a few pieces he had purchased, but as the collection grew, he received works by illustrators from England, Ireland, New Zealand and many other countries.
White wants to ensure artists that the pieces are handled with care and said, “It [the artwork] is all security framed so it’s bolted into the walls. It has a special Plexiglas that will filter out about 97 percent of the damaging light.”
The art gallery in Rhodes Hall and the Children’s Literature Festival have brought a lot of attention to the KSC campus locally and nationally.
McLoughlin additionally said she gave a tour of Rhodes Hall to her daughter’s friend from college who had heard of the collection and she had been impressed by the quality of the artwork.
White said he believes the gallery in Rhodes is one of the top in the country, but with a more educational based background. “We have a lot [of artwork] where we have preliminary sketches, color manipulation and explanation by the illustrator of what he or she is doing,” White said.
Jablon said that he has stopped by Rhodes Hall only a few times since coming to Keene, but feels like he is in an art museum whenever he walks down the hallways of the first floor.
A section of the gallery is a specific collection of 109 owl pieces to celebrate Keene State’s one hundredth anniversary; White said the pieces were created specifically for the Keene State community.
White noted, “I think this building would be terribly dull if these walls didn’t have anything on them or if all that was on them was taped up pieces of paper.”
White said some of the authors and artists of the children’s books with work in the gallery collection attend the annual Children’s Illustration Festival.
On October 29 this year, they will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the festival.
As someone who spends much of her time in the building, Dr. McLoughlin said she finds the artwork superb, and it’s a blessing to have in Rhodes Hall, creating a beautiful environment.
Fletcher Rice can be contacted at email@example.com