Sharing the gift

. September 21, 2012.

"I felt like I'd fallen into paradise," Terry Olthouse says. She's remembering her first day on the job at the University of Findlay's Mazza Museum, where she's worked as Education Coordinator for 16 years. And for someone who  always loved books and teaching, Mazza was indeed the perfect place to end up.

Area parents who aren't already familiar with the Mazza Museum are missing out on a local — and indeed a national — treasure. The museum is the world's largest devoted entirely to the art of children's books, with over 7000 pieces of original art from all over the world, some by the most beloved names in children's literature. Olthouse is proud to be an integral part of the museum's public mission, overseeing educational programs and tours for art and literature fans of all ages.

A Grand Rapids, Michigan native, Olthouse was working as a substitute teacher in the Toledo area when she decided to get a master's degree in education at the University of Findlay. When, as a graduate assistant, she took a position at Mazza, her future had suddenly arrived.

"I spent all of my summers (as a child) going to the library — I loved art and reading and children," she remembers. "I had no idea a place even existed that combined those three loves." And she loves her adopted city, as well. "I'm crazy about the (Findlay) community," she says, "because it was so welcoming. There are so many different things going on, you could be in four different places on any day."

And the Mazza Museum certainly does its part. Olthouse oversees tours, and helps young students be inspired by the museum's collection to express themselves artistically. She organizes popular programs like Tales for Tots and Funday Sunday. She trains the museum's dedicated staff of docents. She helps run scholarly conferences each summer and fall. There's truly something for every reader and every art lover. 

Olthouse's love for art is broad, but she will own up to a special love for both the delicate, painterly work of Ed Young (author of Lon Po Po and a Chinese-flavored version of Little Red Riding Hood) and the simple cheerful work of Ed Emberley, who encourages children to find their own ways to draw. But there's always something to draw her eye and her professional pride. "After 16 years, I can't wait to get to work," she muses. "Every day is exciting and new."

The Mazza Museum is located in the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion on the University of Findlay campus. 1000 N. Main St. 419-422-8313.