Ed Koren To Be Vermont's Next Cartoonist Laureate

Feb 3, 2014

Edward Koren will be appointed Vermont's second cartoonist laureate on Feb. 27, the Center for Cartoon Studies announced Monday.

Koren, a longtime cartoonist, illustrator and cover artist for The New Yorker magazine, will succeed James Kochalka, who was appointed in 2011.

Koren's work is characterized by black-and-white sketches of shaggy creatures, often resembling wolves, as well as humans with large noses.

"The reason you all are becoming extinct is that you can't take a joke," one dinosaur tells another in a cartoon typifying Koren's dry wit. 

Speaking from his home in Brookfield, Koren said he was thrilled by the appointment. "I feel terrific," he said. "It's a wonderful idea, and I'm very happy to replace my wool hat with a wreath of laurels."

In addition to The New Yorker, Koren's work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, The Boston Globe, Vogue, G.Q. and Sports Illustrated, among others, according to the release. His work has been exhibited internationally and is in several permanent collections, including those at the Fogg Museum at Harvard University and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

Vermont is the only state to regularly appoint a cartoonist laureate; Alaska appointed a cartoonist laureate in 2008 but has not kept the position filled.

"A cartoonist laureate is the kind of thinking outside the box that Vermont supports," Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a statement. "Cartooning promotes literacy and literature, two things we can't have enough of."

Literature intersected with cartoon in a recent collaboration between Kochalka and Vermont's current poet laureate, Sydney Lea: The two traded drawing and verse for a small book of poetic cartoons called Vermont Double-Laureate Team Up.

"He's a great choice," Kochalka said of his successor. "He's a national treasure ... So it stands to reason he's a Vermont treasure as well. I think it's fantastic to be mentioned in the same breath as him. I love his work."

Koren said he does not yet have specific plans for how he'll spend his time as cartoonist laureate, other than teaching his craft.

"I'll be growing a set of wings – I'm not sure," he joked. "Probably I'll work a bit with students at the Center for Cartoon Studies, and other students who are interested in working with me … I figure there's a public component to this that I shouldn't miss out on."

Koren spoke with VPR's Jane Lindholm about his work in 2011; on Monday, he recalled that his cat (he won't take credit for its name, Catmandu) had been a vocal participant in the interview. 

"There's the cat again," he said, over meowing in the background. "It's got an ear for publicity."

Koren will be recognized at the Statehouse on Thursday, Feb. 27. Following his appointment, he will give a public lecture at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction.