Professor Matt McElligott was recently interviewed by “AHA” (A House of Arts) on WMHT, where he talked about the monsters and pirates typically featured in his children’s books, his teaching at Russell Sage, and what creative projects are on the horizon.

Matt McElligott, professor of Graphic + Media Design at Russell Sage, was recently a guest on WMHT’s “AHA” (A House of Arts), where he discussed what inspires his children’s books, why he likes being a professor, and what new books and musicals are in the works.

He’s the second Russell Sage faculty member featured on “AHA” in recent weeks. “AHA” highlighted the work of Billy Fillmore, associate professor of 3D art and extended media, whose work features a cast of characters that dwell in our childhood imaginations and nightmares.

In McElligott’s interview, he talked about why his books often focus on monsters and pirates rather than on people.

“When you’re creating an imaginary creature like a monster, that monster doesn’t have to have a gender, or an age, or a skin color, and that means that for a reader, they can connect with, they can see themselves in that character in a different way because it’s less specific,” he said. “That’s why ‘Sesame Street’ is full of Muppets. Kids can relate to an Ernie or a Bert or an Oscar the Grouch or a Grover in a way that they might not be able to connect with a real person. (The other advantage, of course, is that when you’re drawing monsters, it’s hard to draw them wrong.)”

McElligott has taught for 25 years at Russell Sage and has published 18 books. His musical, “Benjamin Franklinstein the Musical!,” adapted from a children’s book by McElligott and Larry Tuxbury with music by Sage Professor Michael Musial, debuted at the Theatre Institute at Sage last season and will be back for a repeat run this season while they work on a new collaboration.

He cited his Russell Sage students as a source of inspiration, helping him to think deeply and differently about concepts so he can present them clearly in class. 

“I feel really fortunate to have these two jobs, an illustrator and a professor, that complement each other so well,” McElligott said. “What I learn from teaching makes me a better artist, and what I learn in the studio makes me a better teacher.”

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