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Society of Illustrators Memorializes History Through Decades of Original

By Kelly Church

As the oldest nonprofit organization in the United States that is committed to illustration, Society of Illustrators strives to encourage the arts and showcase its place in history. The New York, NY museum features 2,500 pieces in the permanent collection and is home to the MoCCA Gallery for comic and cartoon curated exhibits.

"Illustration is art made for the public, and appeals to the masses," Director of Communications and External Relations Katie Feirtag said. "Illustrators create art to narrate an idea or story, so it needs to be easy and quick to understand. Illustration is in everything, from the instruction manual in your recent furniture purchase to the wine label on the rosé you are enjoying."

Exhibitions at the museum cover a wide array of topics. There are two current exhibitions being showcased until the last week of August: The Art of Spider-Man and The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature.

The Art of Spider-Man is the first ever exhibit displaying the original artwork of Spider-Man by many different artists. Guests have the opportunity to see the original artwork from Spider-Man newspaper strips and pages from the first prints of the comic. The museum calls it the largest, and most comprehensive exhibition of Spider-Man art ever seen anywhere in the world.

The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature presents fantasy illustration taken from literature. Stephen Korshak, the collector responsible for the curation, developed a love for art in science fiction when he was young as it inspired a sense of wonder in him. It sparked a lifelong fascination with illustrations.

Upcoming exhibitions also include Fashion and Satire: Drawings of Orson Lowell and Charles Dana Gibson; Members Open: FOOD FIGHT; Book and Editorial; among many other topics. Feirtag believes the museum gives guests an opportunity to learn and appreciate history through an art form that is perhaps more relatable and understandable than fine art.

"People who may not enjoy fine art can understand illustration art better and an recollect our history and time periods better," Feirtag said. "We immediately think of World War I with the 'I Want You' poster illustrated by James Montgomery Flagg. When I think of the [1980s], I think of Keith Haring's squiggly lines, flat figures and bold colors. Keeping this art preserved is important because it tells the story of our history."

The museum also offers educational programs and scholarships for students. Students can attend the Summer Illustration Art Academy between the ages of nine and 13. The summer program takes students to different cultural areas within the city for them to learn different drawing techniques as applicable to those cultures. Professional illustrators and comic artists teach students.

College students can also apply for the Zankel Scholarship, Will Eisner Scholarship, or Student Scholarship, all awarded through Society of Illustrators. The money is to be used for college tuition with the hope of rewarding talented illustrators that could end up contributing to the field.

As a nonprofit organization, Society of Illustrators welcomes donations of all kinds, both monetary and volunteering. The museum offers memberships for those who want to continuously support the museum's efforts, or any patron can make an individual donation. To learn more about donating to Society of Illustrators, visit societyillustrators.org.

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