All three of my kids have been fans of Corduroy since they were toddlers, possibly because I was a fan way before they were even born. It’s impossible not to fall for the endearing, mild-mannered stuffed bear created by prolific author, illustrator, and painter Don Freeman. His two books starring the lovable bear—Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy—are among the author’s best-known works.
Naturally, when I learned that The Museum of the City of New York, one of my family’s favorite NYC destinations, was opening a new exhibit dedicated to Corduroy and a curated collection of Don Freeman’s other works celebrating NYC, I knew I’d be first in line. The exhibit is a loving tribute to Freeman, whose affection for New York City is evident in masterful works that display the intricacies and liveliness of a city like no other. A City for Corduroy: Don Freeman’s New York is an engaging, colorful display and makes for a wonderful outing for little ones and grownups alike—a fitting tribute to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Corduroy.
Young fans of Freeman’s children’s books will instantly spot Corduroy and other characters throughout the exhibit.
A City for Corduroy: Don Freeman’s New York, the first major exhibition devoted to Freeman’s works depicting NYC, is located on the second floor of the Museum of the City of New York. Young fans of Freeman’s children’s books will instantly spot Corduroy and other characters throughout the exhibit. If all of Freeman’s works are new to you and your little ones, you’re in for a treat. The exhibit features around 50 works using various media including oil paintings, sketches, lithographs, watercolors, etc. All celebrate NYC through Freeman’s eyes.
The exhibit is arranged in three sections: City Life, Stage Life, and Corduroy and Friends. As you move through the pieces, you get the sense you’re peeking through a window of yesteryear’s NYC. The artwork is whimsical and full of stunning detail, some evoking the vibrancy and chaos of the city, while others depict the city’s quieter, reflective moments. In Freeman’s words, being a part of New York City “was a privilege that brought with it a living proof…that all people could live together if they but would.”
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Kids can while away the afternoon reading classic tales on a stage fashioned after one featured on the cover of Pet at the Met.
Many might be surprised to learn that Freeman’s career reached way beyond children’s books. He published his own magazine, Newsstand, and his artwork graced the pages of The New York Times, Theatre Magazine, and others. He created theatrical posters and, in 1947, produced the Playbill art for the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Still, he is best-known today as the author of the classic children’s books Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy. Both follow the lovable bear, whose sensible take on the world is a wonderfully sweet reminder that one of the greatest joys in life is friendship. The books feature an African-American girl as Corduroy’s friend, remarkable at the time, as few books of the time featured America’s true diversity.
The Corduroy and Friends section of the exhibit features early drafts from Freeman’s NYC-centered stories including Pet of the Met (1953), Norman the Doorman (1959), Corduroy (1968), Hattie the Backstage Bat (1970), and A Pocket for Corduroy (1978). Kids can while away the afternoon reading these classic tales on a stage fashioned after the one featured on the cover of Pet at the Met.
While you’re there, don’t forget to explore the rest of the museum, including the museum's permanent exhibit New York at its Core. Also, be sure to check for ongoing family-friendly events.
A City for Corduroy: Don Freeman’s New York is now open and runs through Sunday, June 23, 2019 at the Museum of the City of New York. The museum is located at 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street and is open daily from 10am-6pm. Suggested admission is $18 for adults and FREE for ages 19 and under.
Photos by the author