Austin, home of the Lorax, brings in largest Dr. Seuss art exhibit

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Shea Carley

Thomas Burgess observes the original works of Dr. Seuss Tuesday afternoon at Art on 5th, the largest contemporary gallery in Austin. Currently, the gallery is hosting the biggest Dr. Seuss exhibition in the country and is featuring drawings of The Lorax, which were brought to Austin after Dr. Seuss donated them to Lyndon B. Johnson.

Alexa Ura

Austin has been the home of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” since the 1970s, and two local exhibits are celebrating the historical connection this month.

ART on 5th is hosting the largest Dr. Seuss gallery exhibition in the country and features a collection of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” drawings that launched March 2. The exhibition is a retrospective look at the life and art of Theodor Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss, said Joe Sigel, owner of ART on 5th.

“Our permanent gallery goes through all the aspects of Geisel’s career,” he said. “This month we are highlighting ‘The Lorax’ which is one of the major parts of his art and his books.”

ART on 5th is the largest contemporary art gallery in Austin. It is the home to multiple collections of “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” that have been permanently on display at the gallery for 15 years.

The 40,000 square foot exhibition also includes 40 historical panels about Dr. Seuss and his career in children’s literature and art.

The original drawings of “The Lorax” were donated to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum after Liz Carpenter, press secretary of President Lyndon B. Johnson, met Geisel at a benefit dinner in 1970.

Carpenter suggested that President Johnson should ask Geisel for the artwork of the environmentally friendly book that matched Lady Bird Johnson’s efforts to beautify America in the ’60s.

When Geisel was handed a phone with LBJ on the other line, the former president simply thanked Geisel for his donation to his presidential library.

“That’s the way LBJ did politics,” Sigel said. “And that’s why ‘The Lorax’ lives in Austin.”

The LBJ Library & Museum is also displaying Dr. Seuss’ work this month. The museum has 10 of the 80 original “The Lorax” drawings on exhibit.

“President Johnson and Lady Bird were very dedicated to preserving the environment, conservation of energy and protecting the wild lands of America,” said Anne Wheeler, spokesperson for the library and museum. “The message in the book ‘The Lorax’ is to urge everyone that one person and one seed can help improve the environment.”

Both art exhibits were timed to coincide with the March 2 release of the film adaptation of “The Lorax.”

William Dreyer, curator of “The Art of Dr. Seuss” collection, said the collection at ART on 5th is a series of reproductions of Geisel’s originals that were created after his wife Audrey Geisel decided to replicate his work for private collections and public exhibitions.

“This is a way for people to become aware of Geisel’s artistic legacy,” he said. “Austin is the home ‘The Lorax,’ and it’s important to tell the story locally.”

Dreyer said Geisel’s message was intended to fight pollution and greed by promoting personal and corporate responsibility in maintaining the environment.

“He was one of the forerunners in pushing the concept and idea of personal responsibility in terms of natural resources,” he said. “The book has been teaching this message to children since the early 1980s and now it is being delivered through a movie.”