‘The Rabbit hOle’ is KC’s fantastic other-worldly children’s museum

Fantastic Mr Fox Explorastorium Exhibit

An early paper mache miniature model of Katy Kangaroo from the book “Katy No-Pocket” by H.A. Rey. // Courtesy of Blooloop

When the shadow of COVID-19 finally lifts, The Rabbit hOle plans to deliver something avidly satisfying. 

Co-founders Pete Cowdin and Deb Pettid are adamant about creating a living culture around literature that will nourish and inspire the lives of children and adults everywhere. The two devised the company as an artist-driven nonprofit back in 2015, and now the $13 million project (housed in a 165,000 sq/ft industrial building in North KC) is set to open in 2021. And it is looking to become what they claim as “the world’s first Explor-a-Storium.”

Visitors will get the chance to explore a wholly unique, immersive museum experience, thrust into a storybook world showcasing 100 years of children’s book publishing. The plan also includes a letterpress print shop and bindery, a story and writing lab, a resource library and reading room, and a full-service bookstore.

In preparation for their grand opening, the museum is kickstarting the Good Things Come Campaign to raise money for some important employment opportunities for local artists, as well as accelerate exhibit production along the way. The company currently employs 12 designers and fabricators at its in-house fabrication facility, The Rab Fab, and are looking to double that number by the end of the year.

Cowdin and Pettid, who ran Brookside bookstore Reading Reptile from 1988-2016, bought their new space from a bottling company back in 2018, with the goal of having the new museum function as a living piece of art in the style of St. Louis’ City Museum.

“We want to create spaces where you can walk into literature and translate knowledge into an immersive experience,” Cowdin says.

Reading Reptile put Cowdin and Pettid on the map, earning national recognition with crazy and weird visualizations of famous authors’ work. So much so, the nonprofit’s board is full of national literary stakeholders, such as Linda Sue Park and Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket). Earlier this year, The Rabbit hOle shared their love of creating immersive exhibits with a competition that encouraged children to create models of picture books from materials in their own homes.


Co-founders Deb Pettid (left) and Pete Cowdin on the first floor of the Explor-A-Storium. // Courtesy of KC Studio

“The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted so many museums, cultural organizations, and especially artists,” Cowdin said. “We feel incredibly humbled to have been able to continue our work, and with the public’s help provide career opportunities for artists and contribute to Kansas City’s creative economy.”

The seven-week grassroots campaign is aiming for 3,000 people to donate $100, while also asking for some donors to create their own personal fundraising pages to become “operatives” in the campaign. And in just one week the support has been solid, with more than $46,000 already contributed.

The perks are massive. $100 donors will receive an exclusive campaign T-shirt, while Operatives are eligible to obtain virtual tours of the building and fabrication studio. And for those who meet fundraising benchmarks ($1000, $2500, and $5000), an online author studio tour is in the works.

“We are privileged to have a loyal and enthusiastic following, and we need to keep growing that support in order to stay on track for our opening in 2021,” Pettid said.

Good Things Come Campaign page: rabbitholekc.org/good-things

Categories: Culture