While visitors may see Kokomo as an industrial town with its gas extraction facilities and glass factories, locals highlight its innovation. It was the place where the first commercially successful, gasoline-powered U.S. automobile, stainless steel tableware, and push-button car radio were developed. Kokomo was also innovative artistically. It was home to two twentieth-century artists, American painter and printmaker, Harris “Misch” Kohn (1916-2003) and children’s book author and illustrator Norman Bridwell (1928-2014).
Experimenting with printmaking techniques, Misch Kohn started new trends with his use of color, materials, and scale. He was heavily influenced by his environment. His figural and abstract works commented on political events and social climates from World War II (1941-1945) to the Cold War Era (1945-1989). He has been described as “breaking the shackles of conventionality.” Over the course of his career, his style transformed from small, figural prints to massive collages to increasingly abstract explorations of color and light. According to his niece, art scholar Jo Farb Hernández, he is considered “one of the most significant master printmakers of the modern era.” Kohn’s work can be seen on display at the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, Temple B’Nai Israel, and Indiana University Kokomo.
Children around the world have been captivated by Clifford the Big Red Dog and his human friend Emily Elizabeth since his first appearance in 1963. Based on the imaginary childhood friend of creator Norman Bridwell's wife Norma, the Clifford books tell readers about a tiny puppy named Clifford who grows into a dog bigger than a house that Emily Elizabeth would ride. Children read along as Clifford experienced events in Emily Elizabeth’s life from holidays and first days of school to grouchy neighbors and travel to far away places. Clifford books have been translated into 13 languages with more than 129 million copies of 150 titles in print. Bridwell’s original illustrations can be seen at the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library Main location and KHCPL South. You can also visit Bridwell’s childhood home, a historical site in Kokomo.