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Whitney Story

The Whitney Does D.I.Y. With Desert Island Comics
Sep 13, 2011

  • Museum is set up with booths and tables.

    Families peruse prints, zines, buttons, and more at the Desert Island Comic Zine Party. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Colorful prints with balloon letters above it.

    The Desert Island Comic Zine Party, 2011. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Child talks with zine presenter.

    Kids talk to independent artists and illustrators. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Artist Noah Lyon drawing on comic.

    Contemporary artists and illustrators sign limited edition prints for kids. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Artist talking with families in gallery

    Families discuss characters in Lyonel Feininger’s paintings. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Children sit around and look at a comic.

    Kids explore the settings Feininger created in his comics. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Child with pencil in hand and paper in front.

    Inspired by Lyonel Feininger, kids draw their own comics. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Families smiling in front of artist table.

    Contemporary artists and illustrators sign limited edition prints for kids. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Girls drawing their own comics.

    In the Sculpture Court, kids draw wacky and wonderful comic strips. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Family smile and help each other draw.

    Families have a blast drawing their own comics. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Children drawing on the ground together.

    Inspired by Lyonel Feininger, kids develop crazy characters and fantastic settings to make a comic. Photograph by Sean Carroll

  • Artists smile for the camera in front of prints.

    Independent artists and illustrators sell their prints, zines, and more at the Desert Island Comic Zine Party. Photograph by Sean Carroll

The pioneering comic strip work of German-American artist Lyonel Feininger, subject of the retrospective Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World on view at the Whitney from June through October, inspired the Desert Island Comic Zine Party, an all-day family event that energized the Museum on a mid-October afternoon. The fair, conceived in collaboration with the Brooklyn comic book shop Desert Island, featured local artists who shared work ranging from 'zines to totebags with families in a live book fair setting.

A revered illustrator and leading member of the German Expressionist groups Die Brüke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), the American-born Feininger is fondly remembered for the comic strips he drew for the Chicago Sunday Tribune in 1906, The Kind-der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie’s World, panels from which were on view in the exhibition.

To introduce the family participants to the work of Feininger, the Education Department developed a program around three themes central to comic book making: setting, character, and text. At stations positioned throughout the exhibition galleries and manned by museum educators, the mostly tween program participants considered these themes and drew their own one-panel comics in response to Feininger’s work. Who could pass up an opportunity to make art in the galleries on a weekend afternoon? Not many! 

Meanwhile, the Museum was hosting the main event in the Lower Gallery: a full-scale, interactive comic book fair. A group of twelve comic book artists, most Brooklyn-based, had been invited by the Whitney and Desert Island owner Gabe Fowler to create an original- black-and-white line drawing prior to the event; limited-edition prints were offered for participants to collect as they visited each artist.  A brightly colored book cover designed by the Museum’s graphic designdepartment tied the project together; after collecting drawings, kids were able to bind them into a complete comic book of their own. 

The Zine Party is just one in a series of comics-related events that took place throughout the Museum during the fall season. The collaboration with Desert Island Comics was a first for the Museum: “Working with a partner—whether it’s a single artist or another entity—can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. By working with Desert Island, we were able to meet and work with some amazing artists and illustrators, whose drawings helped us to make Feininger’s work accessible to younger audiences,” remarks Stina Puotinen, the Whitney's senior coordinator of Family Programs.


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A 30-second online art project:
Sara Ludy, Tumbleweeds

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Learn more at whitney.org/artport