Even before the “I” was added to SCBWI in 1992, the New England Region recognized the importance of serving its illustrator members. In 1991, Susan Aller coordinated A History of Children’s Book Illustration in West Hartford, CT, and Anita Riggio hosted a Day at an Illustrator’s Studio in Wethersfield, CT. In 1993, Pat Lowery Collins planned a program called Picturing the Picture Book at Studio School in Nashua, NH, and in 1994, Carol Bancroft hosted an SCBWI Schmooze for Illustrators in Ridgefield, CT.
Between 1995 and 2000, the primary programming opportunities for all members, writers as well as illustrators, were offered by the Region’s annual conference. In 2000, Jenn Costas planned the region’s first Illustrators’ Day at Rivier College in Nashua, NH. The following year, Margo Lemieux and Jennifer O’Keefe coordinated a second Illustrators’ Day at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI.
In 2002, Marion Eldridge and Donna Berger organized an SCBWI Illustrators Schmooze at the First Parish Church in Bedford, MA, and in 2003, Jennifer O’Keefe coordinated a gathering for illustrators at the newly-opened Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA.
In 2011, Rich Michelson, owner of Rich Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts, established the Rich Michelson Emerging Artist Award, which is given to a recipient of his choice. The following artists have received this award:
2011 Katia Wish and Jeannette Bradley, Co-Winners
2012 Russ Cox, Winner
2013 David Bird, Winner; Joanna Lapatti, Honorable Mention
2014 Kevin Barry, Winner
2015 Marcela Staudenmaier, Winner
2016 Milanka Reardon, Winner
2017 Anne Wert, Winner
2018 Amanda Putnam, Winner
2019 Kari Percival, Winner
Later that same year, Regional Coordinator Marilyn Salerno received permission from SCBWI Headquarters to add a dedicated Illustrator Coordinator to the New England Regional Team, and Casey Girard enthusiastically filled the post. She and Anna Boll immediately began planning a Children’s Book Illustration Symposium at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH. Casey also began coordinating the Portfolio Showcase and Poster contest at the annual regional conference, and worked with FableVision in Boston, MA, to develop Freshly Squeezed: A Visionary Art Show in 2012.
When Casey unexpectedly moved to California, Denise Ortakales and Ruth Sanderson agreed to serve as co-Illustrator Coordinators. Denise took over responsibility for the 2012 Children’s Book Illustration Symposium at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and then coordinated the program again in 2013. In 2014, she replaced the Poster Contest at the annual conference with a non-competitive Illustration Challenge, and participation tripled. She also provided online critiques of sketches for the Illustration Challenge. In 2015, Denise also began hosting monthly Illustration Meet & Greets at the Books a Million in Concord, NH.
Denise and Ruth worked together to expand illustrator-specific activities and programming at the annual regional conference, and Ruth held several portfolio workshops at her studio. When Ruth decided to step down from her position in 2015, Milanka Reardon agreed to take her place.
Over the next few years, Denise and Milanka continued to coordinate a variety of conference-related events and programs, including a Portfolio Showcase with awards, an Illustration Challenge, a First Look panel, illustrator portfolio critiques, and a Saturday night sketch activity. Each year, they also selected the conference logo from submissions provided by SCBWI members.
Recent winners of the Portfolio Showcase have included:
2014 Jen Betton
2015 Priscilla Alpaugh, Winner
Kevin Barry & Dani Jones, Honorable Mention
2016 David Bird, Winner
Sarita Rich & Renee Kurilla, Honorable Mention
2017 Victoria Tentler-Krylov, Winner
Zoe Tilley Poster, Second Place
Ioanna Hobai, Third Place
Elissa Turnbull, Honorable Mention
2018 Abi Cushman, Winner
Mike Malbrough & Jennifer Morris, Honorable Mention
2019 Neesha Hudson, Winner
Michelle McGaughey & Sheli Petersen, Honorable Mention
In 2017 and 2018, Denise and Milanka worked with Kris Asselin and Francine Puckly to expand the faculty of Agent/Editor Day to include art directors who review illustrator portfolios as well as picture book dummies. Milanka continued in this role in 2019.
In 2018, Denise and Milanka organized a juried art show called “Picture a Story” for New England SCBWI PAL members at the Wedeman Art Gallery at Lasell College in Newton, MA. Milanka organized another art show at the Wedeman Gallery in 2020.
When the region was re-organized in 2018, Denise became the Co-Regional Coordinator for Northern New England, and Russ Cox took over her position as Co-Illustrator Coordinator, Northern New England. The re-organization added a third Co-Regional Coordinator slot, which was filled by Jeanette Bradley.
Russ works with Co-RA Shawn Anderson to plan Encore North, while Jeanette works with Co-RA Stacy Mozer to plan Agent/Editor Day South. All three Co-Illustrator Coordinators continue to assist with programming for illustrators at the annual conference. They are also overseeing regional scholarships and awards for illustrators.
2011-2012 Casey Girard
Co-Illustrator Coordinator, Northern
2012-2018 Denise Ortakales
2018- Russ Cox
Co-Illustrator Coordinator, Central
2012-2015 Ruth Sanderson
2015- Milanka Reardon
Co-Illustrator Coordinator, Southern
2018-2018 Stephanie Ruble
2018- Jeanette Bradley