Uncool: Children’s Library Workshop Series

 Spring 2013  

In April of 2013, the Pasadena Public Library and Designmatters co-hosted a series of hands-on creative workshops for children and their families, with the educational objective to raise anti-gun violence awareness in young children without raising fear.


The library series was an extension of an illustration studio at Art Center College called Uncool 2: The Anti-Gun Violence Project, which focused on the creation of illustrated children’s books as viable vehicles for anti-gun messages in children ages 6-7 years old. From the nine books produced by students in the class, four were printed in quantity and disseminated into the hands of the local community at each of the library workshops. These sessions covered a wide range of techniques, including comic book design, collage, and painting, with an educational objective to raise anti-gun violence awareness in young children without raising fear.


“We all know that students who are involved in after-school activities, like those offered by the library, are less likely to be involved in dangerous or non-productive pastimes. If libraries, schools and interested adults do their work with children, we are much less likely to see these children get into trouble later. The process of creating a book, comic book or poster helps young people develop an appreciation for literature and its production.”

– Jan Sanders, Director, Pasadena Public Library


At the Library

Each workshop was held at a different branch of the Pasadena Public Library and related directly to one of four books authored and illustrated by ArtCenter students, Ariel Lee, Kin Lok, Juan Marco, and Vivian Shih.

Ariel Lee’s book, Mark and the Jellybean Monster, was the centerpiece in the first of a series of five workshops and took place at the historic Central Library branch. Kindergarten and first-grade teacher LaShawn Moore read the book aloud to the children, prompting them to offer their reactions along the way. In Lee’s story, Mark moves past his fear of something he does not know — a Yeti monster — not by resorting to guns, but by discovering their shared love of jellybeans. After the reading, Lee demonstrated the techniques she used to create her illustrations to the eager group of kids who painted their own imaginative pictures while Lee and her faculty mentor, David Tillinghast, moved around the children and offered guidance.


ArtCenter For Kids faculty, Thomas Broersma, led students in creating comic books in which the superheros promote a peaceful understanding of others without resorting to violence. Broersma designed a format in which a large sheet of paper folded into an 8-page booklet and cleverly unfolded to reveal a larger poster on the backside of the pages. Each child took home a copy of their very own comic book/poster that they designed in the class.

The fifth and final workshop took place on the sunny lawn of the La Pintoresca branch. For the “Very Cool Poster Workshop”, students enjoyed a reading of Kin Lok’s story, Zoarmax 133’s Big Question. Zoarmax 133 is a visitor from another planet who is on a mission to understand our unfamiliar world.  He comes across an object he can’t understand — a gun — and subsequently journeys around the world interviewing different humans to find out whether guns are “cool” or “uncool”.

In this workshop, led once again by Patrick Hruby, kids were encouraged to focus on positive images and activities by designing posters of cool things in their own lives. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman joined the students at this last session and interviewed the children about their notions about guns as they drew posters depicting a wide range of “cool” things, from clowns to sports and lions, and even chocolate milkshakes.


“ArtCenter is such an incredible resource for the community. My boys are very into media — TV and movies — and this exposes them to other kinds of things. It’s amazing that the students and professors come out on a Saturday to do this.”

– Katy Nevell, mother of Graham and Quint Nevell

“Reading Amos’ New Life to kids at workshop made my story feel real. The most fulfilling part was seeing the excitement in the children’s faces as I flipped through my book, knowing that an important message is getting through to them with my help..”

– Vivian Shih, Student, Illustration



The library series is a pilot program with potential for expansion in other communities. In May 2013, Designmatters presented a panel to 6th- and 9th-graders at Aveson Global Leadership Academy about the department and the Uncool childrens books, as well as the related “Where’s Daryl?” initiative that was recently deployed at local middle schools within the LA Unified School district.

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