Katie Broussard '04, '06 M.Ed. discovered her own love of art while doing arts and crafts with her two sons, Andrew and Thomas.
“We would be doing normal kid art projects, Crayola watercolors or finger painting or sidewalk chalk, and I started to notice that, after a little while, the kids would lose interest and go play with their trains or other toys, as kids do. And I realized, I’m still sitting here, painting this watercolor giraffe,” Broussard laughs. “It felt exciting to work on an art project, so I decided to take art classes at a local art studio.”
These days, almost five years after those first art classes, Broussard is now a children’s book illustrator. She collaborates with her brother, Paul Mitchell ’07, on children’s books that tell stories about the Catholic faith. Mitchell writes the stories and she illustrates them.
Their first book, Audacious Ignatius, is about Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and Broussard has also illustrated the book I’m A Saint in the Making written by Lisa Hendey ’85. This summer, Broussard and Mitchell have a new book coming out, Sorin Starts A School, about the founder of Notre Dame, Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C.
A biology and theology major at Notre Dame, Broussard earned her master’s in education through Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and then taught physics at Chicago’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Mitchell also previously taught at a Jesuit school, so it seemed fitting that their first book was about Saint Ignatius. Next, the duo is working on a book that will help parents and children say prayers of gratitude at the end of each day.
Broussard enjoyed attending retreats while she was a student at Notre Dame, and says she is grateful for the many opportunities she had to explore different types of spirituality and devotions within Catholic tradition.
“Notre Dame was where I really took ownership of my faith. I found my own spirituality there, and that really informs my desire to illustrate stories that can create conversations between parents and kids about their faith,” she says. “Kids have a ton of questions about God and religion, and I think it is fun to have a book with interesting illustrations as a jumping off point to get the conversation started.”
When she paints, Broussard strives for variety in her illustrations: some with lots of action to generate conversation and questions, and others that are more sparse and allow for contemplation or meditation on the scene.
“I think of the philosophy of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is a Montessori-based philosophy that focuses on honoring a child’s innate relationship with God and believes religious instruction should be respectful of the relationship with God that children already have,” she says. “I try to have that in mind when I’m illustrating and try to create space for them to continue to develop that relationship.”
Broussard and Mitchell worked on Sorin Starts a School during the pandemic and, sometimes, they wondered if it was the right time for a creative endeavor. But they were inspired by the story of Fr. Sorin and his commitment to building a university even when others did not appreciate his vision, and continued their work.
“We had to discern, as things unfolded with COVID, if this needed to just go on the shelf and we needed to focus on other things,” Broussard says. “We felt connected to the spirit of Fr. Sorin in the sense of saying, conditions are not great for this, but we still feel called to make this right now and we’re going to pursue this and trust that God will be with us in this process. It was almost therapeutic, during a really uncertain time, to have this project to connect to every day. We felt called to tell the story of how the spirituality of the Congregation of Holy Cross is the foundation of Notre Dame's mission, and it was a comfort to be able to work on bringing this to life through illustration each day, and to be able to share it with people.”
All the proceeds from the book, which is published by the siblings’ company, Corde Press, will go to the Congregation of Holy Cross in Bangladesh, to support the building of Notre Dame University Bangladesh in Dhaka. Sorin Starts a School will be published in late summer 2021. Visit the Corde Press website for more information.