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Children's Book Illustrations Spotlight 10 Mighty Women at the Zimmerli This Fall


originally published: 08/16/2022


(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University-New Brunswick presents Stand Up! 10 Mighty Women Who Made a Change from September 28 through February 12, 2023. The exhibit was organized by Nicole Simpson, assistant curator of prints and drawings. Bilingual labels, in English and Spanish, accompany the works. The exhibition celebrates the debut picture book of the same title by Brittney Cooper, professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies and Africana studies at Rutgers, with illustrations by Cathy Ann Johnson.

The exhibition features illustrations of all the images in the book, as well as preparatory materials, by Johnson, on public view for the first time. The author and illustrator stop by the Zimmerli on September 29 from 5:00pm to 7:00pm to present a reading, discussion and signing for the book Stand Up! 10 Mighty Women Who Made a Change, available from Orchard Books.

“Picture books are an important resource for introducing children to revolutionary figures who may not be included in elementary school curricula,” said Nicole Simpson, the Zimmerli’s assistant curator of prints and drawings, who organized the exhibition. “Cooper’s inspiring text and Johnson’s dynamic illustrations bring these individuals to life for young readers.”


Illustrations by Cathy Ann Johnson: (LEFT) Mari Copeny (RIGHT) "You’re going to change the world"

One of the leading Black feminist voices of our time, Cooper brings together stories of women, from historical to contemporary settings, ranging from Civil Rights activists Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks to modern heroes such as Bree Newsome, who removed the confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds, and Mari Copeny, a youth activist who fought for clean water in Flint, Michigan.

Cooper's text depicts both famous and unsung Black women who took a stand and made the world a better place for future generations. Each heroic figure is interconnected by a united quest for equity, and offers young readers a stirring, inspirational call to action, reminding them that they are mighty too, and can be forces for change when they stand up!

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“Rutgers provides many exciting opportunities for collaboration across the university,” Zimmerli director Maura Reilly said. “We are delighted to work with Professor Cooper and Ms. Johnson to encourage young people to consider their roles in creating positive change.”

Stand Up! is on view in the Zimmerli’s Duvoisin Gallery, dedicated to showcasing original artwork for children’s books. This ongoing rotation of exhibitions serves to educate audiences about the craft of book illustration, providing rare insight into the creative process. To schedule a class or group tour, please contact the Education Department (education@zimmerli.rutgers.edu) at least three weeks in advance.


Cathy Ann Johnson, Ruby Bridges

Cathy Ann Johnson received her bachelor of fine arts degree from the Columbus College of Arts and Design. She spent several years at Hallmark Greeting Cards, where she honed her skills crafting emotional content that speaks to children. Johnson loves connecting words to pictures, and her whimsical and lyrical style focuses on layouts that echo a child’s perspective. Her work has appeared in children’s books, magazines, posters, home décor, gifts and more. She currently works from Downtown Decatur, Georgia, as well as a satellite studio in Rome, Italy. In her spare time, Johnson, her husband, and their cute doggie enjoy roaming Rome and chasing castles in medieval towns.

Brittney Cooper is the New York Times bestselling author of Eloquent Rage: A Black Woman Discovers her Superpowers. A professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, she cofounded the Crunk Feminist Collective, and her cultural commentary has been featured on MSNBC’s All In with Chris HayesMelissa Harris-Perry, the New York TimesNew York MagazineMarie ClaireThe CutThe Washington Post, NPR, PBS, Al Jazeera’s Third Rail, Ebony.com, Essence.com, TheRoot.com and TED.com, and has been named four times to The Root 100.


Cathy Ann Johnson, Phillis Wheatley

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, with strengths in the Art of the Americas, Asian Art, European Art, Russian Art & Soviet Nonconformist Art, and Original Illustrations for Children's Literature. The permanent collections include works in all mediums, spanning from antiquity to the present day, providing representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, which stands among America’s highest-ranked, most diverse public research universities. Founded in 1766, as one of only nine colonial colleges established before the American Revolution, Rutgers is the nation’s eighth-oldest institution of higher learning.

Admission is free to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. The museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.

The Zimmerli Art Museum is open Wednesday and Friday, 11:00am to 6:00pm; Thursday, 11:00am to 8:00pm; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5:00pm. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday, as well as major holidays and the month of August. 




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