April 16, 2014  

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Reception July 9 for Exhibit of “Where the Wild Things Are” Creator’s Work

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An image from Maurice Sendak’s famed “Where the Wild Things Are.”

The founding director of the state’s Museum of Southern Jewish History will present at the opening reception for a University of Southern Mississippi exhibit spotlighting the work of an internationally acclaimed children’s literature author and illustrator.

Vicki Reikes Fox will discuss the influence of Jewish culture and history in the work of Maurice Sendak, which includes the iconic “Where the Wild Things Are” for the exhibit “In a Nutshell: the Worlds of Maurice Sendak” Saturday, July 9 from 7-9 p.m. at Cook Library, room 105A next to Starbuck’s.

The travelling exhibit, which will run through Aug. 18, will be enhanced with key pieces drawn from the university’s internationally-known de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, including original works from such Jewish authors and illustrators as H.A. and Margret Rey, Ezra Jack Keats, Nonny Hogrogian and Tana Hoban, among others.

“Sendak’s work is recognized as the epitome of quality in children’s literature. Where the Wild Things Are is familiar to many families. The one thing that hasn’t been as highly recognized is the Jewish influence on Sendak’s work,” said Ellen Ruffin, curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

“We’re fortunate to be able to host this exhibit and hope our community will take advantage of this unique opportunity.”

Fox, who grew up in Hattiesburg, has worked for more than 25 years as a museum consultant in art, historical, ethnic and children’s museums creating interactive installations, exhibits and programs and is the author of “Shalom Y’all:  Images of Jewish Life in the American South” which was published in 2002. Her presentation for the reception is titled “Outside Looking In:Telling Stories through a Personal Lens”

“My talk will look at how the experience of growing up Jewish is reflected in Maurice Sendak’s books, illustrations and stories. With this as a backdrop, I will explore how my own southern Jewish experience has influenced my creative work,” Fox said.

“For me, the common theme is how our personal narratives are informed by our Jewish background—how our families and community and the values, traditions and sensibilities that are imparted through them are reflected in the stories we tell.”

Her presentation will follow Rabbi Uri Barnea, who will open the reception with a sample of Jewish music and play the violin. Barnea holds a doctorate in conducting and composition from the University of Minnesota, and was a professional musician before attending Rabbinical School.

“In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak” was organized by the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia, and developed by Nextbook, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Jewish literature, culture, and ideas, and the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office. The national tour of the exhibit is made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the David Berg Foundation and an anonymous donor, with additional support from “Tablet Magazine: A New Read on Jewish Life”.

For more information, contact Ellen Ruffin at 601.266.4349; or e-mail ellen.ruffin@usm.edu