Make Way for Animal Tales: Sculpture by Nancy Schön

2015 September E 037Nancy Schön has devoted much of her time and considerable talent to creating sculptures for non-profit, charitable organizations including hospitals, libraries, colleges and public gardens. Her works honor nurses, victims of domestic violence, missing children and cancer survivors, and raise funds for the blind, prevention of cruelty to animals, music schools, the elderly, and local community alliances.

2015 September E 058One of her most beloved public art pieces in the Boston area is Make Way for Ducklings, installed in 1987 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Boston Public Gardens. The bronze pays tribute to Robert McClosky’s popular children’s book, written in 1941, about a family of eight ducklings led safely by their mother through busy Beantown intersections with the assistance of a kind-hearted police officer.

2015 September E 030Classic books? Adorable ducklings? Illustrations? Sculpture? I could hardly wait to attend the opening of Animal Tales: Sculpture by Nancy Schön at the Wenham Museum on September 19th. It was spectacular! Filled with full size sculptures and tiny maquettes, everything could be touched, caressed, hugged and even ridden! Many maquettes were mounted to lazy-susan style display platforms that could be rotated to show every angle of the featured creature. The walls were hung with McCloskey original sketches, two Eric Carle giclee prints, and informative placards about Nancy’s lost wax cast bronze process. Here’s a glimpse of the exhibit:

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From McCloskey’s “Blueberries for Sal”

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Maquette for “Blueberries for Sal” Original in Boothbay, Maine.

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To celebrate the exhibit opening, the Wenham Museum prepared a special room with tables, clay, and sculpting tools so guests could create their own mini-masterpieces. Lots of little artists were inspired to make mythical beasts, cartoon characters or their family pets. Eavesdropping on their stream-of-consciousness storytelling while they rolled, pinched, squeezed and shaped their creations was half the fun! We came home with a swirled snail, a magic fish, and the requisite artist/ fangirl photo souvenir:

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We met Nancy Schön in person!

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I love that Nancy intends her work to be interactive, placing her art in accessible locations and creating them in child-friendly sizes. Her animals invite viewers to touch them, and they in turn touch our hearts. I’ve never stopped to admire the Boston ducklings without finding kids – little, big and all grown-up – swarming around to ride, pet, and hug Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, Quack and Mrs. Mallard.

The Wenham Museum exhibit runs through January 3, 2016, but if you can’t make it to Boston I highly recommend this terrific clip from Boston’s Chronicle about Nancy’s career, sculpture, and power tools! Set in her studio, it really captures the artist’s warmth, charm and thoughtful design:

It has been some time since I’ve indulged in an Artist Date, a little “assigned play” per the wisdom of Julia Cameron. Meeting Nancy and spending a full day enjoying and exploring her art helped replenish my well of inspiration. To look back at some of my previous Artist Date posts, you may enjoy reading:

Follow Me to Folly Cove: Virginia Lee Burton

Spilled Paint – deCordova Series

An Artist Date with Milo and Thackery



About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at or Twitter @catballoumealey
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21 Responses to Make Way for Animal Tales: Sculpture by Nancy Schön

  1. mariagianferrari says:

    What a wonderful and inspiring post, Cathy! And how cool that you & Grace got to meet Nancy!! Wow! I wish I still lived nearby–I know it’s one Anya would have loved too! I love how the whole thing was set up, how it was meant to be touched and explored with all senses. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  2. What a talent! I’m partial to the “Blueberries for Sal” piece. Thanks for bringing Nancy Schön to my attention. Absolutely delightful.

  3. I love sculptures (of any subject) and Robert McClosky’s books! Wish I could be in Boston for this exhibit, but I appreciated your tour of it for us…I feel like I was there with you!

  4. I love sculptures and would have loved to have joined you on your visit to the exhibit. Such talent! I love her work.

  5. Sue Wang says:

    What fun. The sculptures are lively, very true to the book illustrations. And I love that you got to met the artist. Thank you for this post. Very entertaining and informative!

  6. Oh my gosh! I’m in love 🙂 Lucky you to have attended the opening.

  7. izatrapani1 says:

    What a treat to have met her in person! I loved seeing her on the video, She’s so warm and joyful- and funny! Her sculptures are wonderful, and so nice of her to encourages people to touch them- and how could we resist?

  8. tinamcho says:

    How fun to visit this place! Thanks for the tour, and lovely pic of you and Nancy!

  9. This is wonderful. I’m late in reading, but so glad I saved this link in my “to read” list.

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