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Colby-Sawyer College Hosts Retrospective Exhibition of Works by Tomie dePaola

Colby-Sawyer College will celebrate the lifework of former faculty member and internationally renowned author and artist Tomie dePaola in two exhibitions at the Sawyer Fine and Performing Arts Center, “Tomie dePaola: Then and Now.” The “Then” exhibition this fall will feature his early drawings, paintings and books, along with images of his costume and set designs, from the late 1940s until the mid-1970s.

In fall 2014, the “Now” show will coincide with dePaola's 80th birthday and highlight his career from 1975 to the present with fine art and book illustrations.

“Tomie dePaola: Then” will open Nov. 7, 2013, with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Marian Graves Mugar Art Gallery in the Sawyer Fine and Performing Arts Center. Admission is free and all are welcome. The exhibition will run through Dec. 20, 2013.

dePaola, a New London resident, believes that encouragement and support from his strong family, teachers and mentors, along with an excellent education, were essential for him to thrive and pursue his lifelong passion for the arts. He hopes his upcoming exhibitions at Colby-Sawyer will inspire students and encourage support for a new fine and performing arts center at the college.

About Tomie dePaola
When dePaola was four years old, his Italian relatives asked him and his older brother, Joseph, what they wanted to be when they grew up. Joseph said he wanted to be Dick Tracey, Joe Palooka and Buck Rogers, but Tomie responded with certainty, “I'm going to be an artist. I'm going to write stories and draw pictures for books, and I'm going to sing and tap dance on the stage.”

Seventy-five years later, Tomie dePaola is one of the world's most prolific and popular children's authors and illustrators. He has published nearly 250 books and sold some 15 million copies, as well as won many of the genre's prestigious awards.

“I'd like to show people, especially students, how I started out in high school and what I'm doing now. A lot of people don't know I can draw realistically from the figure,” dePaola says. “Now that I'm reaching the end of my journey, I'd like to show off all my work and let people make up their own minds.”

As he approaches his 80th birthday, dePaola is working on book projects and has also branched out into explorations of color in a series of exquisite, tiny abstract paintings.

Colby-Sawyer College, Strega Nona and Tomie dePaola
dePaola's connection to Colby-Sawyer began in 1959 when his friend, Eugene Youngken, the Sawyer Center's first theater director, invited him to create the sets and perform in the center's first production, Thornton Wilder's “The Matchmaker.” He returned as a faculty member from 1972 to 1975.

dePaola taught classes in theater production, costume and set design, and art and film history, as well as ran the children's theater company in the summers. During his busy, productive years at Colby Junior College, he also illustrated children's books, and it was here that he created his most beloved and enduring character.

“I was sitting in the back at a faculty meeting, doodling on a notepad instead of taking notes, and I happened to draw Pulcinella, the commedia dell'arte character with the big nose and big chin,” dePaola explains. “All of a sudden a little kerchief appeared on him, and this fat little old Italian lady showed up.”

This irresistible character burst into life as Strega Nona, a grandma witch who cooks magical potions in her pasta pot to cure headaches, remove warts and conjure romance in her Italian village. dePaola wrote and illustrated the tale of Strega Nona, which captured the Caldecott Honor in 1976 and became his first best-selling children's book. Strega Nona and her helper, Big Anthony, have since appeared in 10 more books, and this fall they will return in Strega Nona Does It Again!

– Drawn from “Tomie dePaola: Then and Now” by Kimberly Swick Slover in the Fall 2013 issue of Colby-Sawyer Magazine

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire.

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000