Meet the Exhibition Committee

Over the past three years, Curator of Exhibitions Jason Shaiman organized the first of its kind exhibition, Telling a People’s Story: African-American Children’s Illustrated Literature. Shaiman brought together an incredible committee of educators, illustrators, authors, librarians, students, and children’s book enthusiasts to comprehensively create the exhibition. Since arriving at Miami University Art Museum nearly eight years ago, Shaiman has curated more than 30 exhibitions and co-curated seven more. These exhibitions dealt with topics of identity in art, women in art, abstract art, the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Freedom Summer, metal point drawing, and expressive art therapies. Shaiman continues to break the mold of a “traditional” art museum exhibition by creating interdisciplinary displays drawing an expansive audience of viewers from across the university, state, and now country.

Serving as Shaiman’s “right-hand woman,” Dr. Brenda Dales in Teacher Education is a specialist in children’s literature with a particular emphasis in picture books. Since beginning this journey three years ago with Shaiman, Dr. Dales has offered incredible insight into the various books, authors, and illustrators necessary to include in this groundbreaking exhibition. Dr. Dales volunteers much of her time on various book committees, including the American Libraries Association Notable Children’s Books Committee and the United States Board on Books for Young People. In bringing this experience and expertise to the table, Dr. Dales was able to help shine a light on marginalization within children’s illustrated literature. In addition to her work on the committee, Dr. Dales is co-teaching EDT 285 African-American Children’s Book Art with Shaiman, a one-time class analyzing the picture books found within the exhibition and how they serve as a vital form of social justice.

Dr. Darwin Henderson, retired Associate Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Cincinnati, specialized in children’s literature, multicultural literature, and literacy. In addition, he was the 2006-2007 Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Award Jury of the American Library Association, and recently served as the Chair of the Committee that oversees the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. Because of these accomplishments, Dr. Henderson served as a vital committee member, bringing additional insight into multicultural literature and African-American children’s literature.

Sam Bloom, Senior Children’s Librarian at the Public Library of Cincinnati/Hamilton County in Blue Ash, is a lifetime advocate of children’s picture books and diversity and has served on various committees within the American Libraries Association. Before beginning his career in libraries, Mr. Bloom taught for six years in the Indianapolis Public Schools. He is currently the Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee. In having this experience, Mr. Bloom proved indispensable to the Exhibition Committee by bringing his expertise of children’s books as well as his additional knowledge of diverse books, specifically African American.

Arnold Adoff, author of over 30 books, is the recipient of numerous awards including the 1988 National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Mr. Adoff is the widow of acclaimed African-American author Virginia Hamilton from Yellow Springs, OH. She was the first African-American author to win the prized John Newbery Award, which is awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. In having this background as an author himself as well as his late wife, Mr. Adoff proved an integral part of the committee in bringing forth the importance of African-American authors and illustrators to society, as well as the exhibition.

Gratia Banta, Youth Services Manager of the Lane Library System, has served Youth Services for the last 11 years. In addition to this position, Ms. Banta served on the 2016 Robert F. Seibert Informational Book Award Committee, part of the American Libraries Association. Ms. Banta also served on the Booklist Editorial Advisory Board, 2013 Arbuthnot Committee, 1987 Caldecott Committee, and Chair of the 2006 Caldecott Committee. With these experiences, Ms. Banta gave insight to various books to be included as well as the importance of diverse books within society.

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emeritus of Education at The Ohio State University, is one of the foremost authorities on African-American children’s literature, having published several books and written numerous articles on the subject. Dr. Bishop is the recipient of the 2017 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, awarded annually to an African-American author or illustrator who has made a lasting and significant on literature.

Curator of Education Cynthia Collins served on the Exhibition Committee to include her extensive knowledge of the African-American experience and how it could be presented through programming in support of the exhibition. Because of her background in Art Education, Collins provided additional perspectives on how educational programs could be developed that highlight the artwork. This included the Art Explorers programs led by Lane Public Library inviting young children to hear a story from the exhibition along with participating in a related craft.

Art Education Assistant Professors Dr. Stephanie Baer and Dr. Stephanie Danker both served on the committee. Dr. Baer offered great insights into how the exhibition could be made more accessible to Pre-K through elementary school teachers. In doing this, Dr. Baer taught a course where her Art Education students helped create lesson plans in conjunction with the exhibition for teachers to follow. Dr. Danker also worked with students in Art Education to help facilitate didactic materials to be presented to educators. Dr. Danker is also supervising a student who is assisting with the development of web pages to present lesson plans and other teacher resources connected to the exhibition.

Larry Collins, Associate Professor of Art who teaches numerous studio art classes and is a trained illustrator. In addition, Mr. Collins is very knowledgeable about African-American artists, particularly those of the 20th century, providing deeper insight pertinent to executing Telling a People’s Story.

Dr. Nishani Frazier, Associate Professor of History teaches various courses on African-American history with an emphasis on interculturalism. She is the co-editor of Freedom on My Mind: The Columbia Documentary History of the African American Experience. Dr. Frazier is also an affiliate with Global and Intercultural Studies (Black World Studies Program). Because of her background, Dr. Frazier demonstrated a crucial voice in accurately conveying the history within the exhibition.

Dr. Yvette Harris of the Psychology Department, used her specialized research and teaching in African-American child psychology and development to stress the importance of African American’s within children’s illustrated literature. Dr. Harris’ research emphasizes on how mothers read and interpret books for their children, lining up perfectly with the goals of this exhibition.

Dr. Anita Wilson, Associate Professor of English, specializes in children’s literature. She has given much attention in her teaching to the topic of childhood, identity, and culture as represented in literature, further aiding in the planning of the exhibition. Dr. Wilson is teaching two courses this semester on Children’s Literature.


Written by Caroline Bastian