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Black Heritage Trail Of New Hampshire Honors Artist Ashley Bryan

Courtesy, Photo by Leslie Tryon

The University of New Hampshire is hosting the 12th Annual Black New England Conference this weekend. This year, the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire Citizen of the Year Award goes to 95-year-old artist and writer Ashley Bryan.

“I'm always touched by such awards and hope that I'm worthy of them. There's so many wonderful people doing excellent work and my work is so modest in comparison,” Bryan said.

Bryan is a celebrated children's book author and illustrator, influenced by African American spirituals and African folktales. He loved making art from a young age and applied to art school after graduating high school.

Credit Courtesy, Photo by Henry Isaacs
Ashley Bryan holding one of his prints.

“I made the rounds with my portfolio and was told it was the best portfolio they had seen but it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a colored person,” he said.

He was later accepted to the Cooper Union School of Art. Even as a soldier in World War II, he always maintained his devotion to drawing.

“I always kept drawing materials in my gas mask and any chance I had I drew. I never stopped drawing through the war.”

Bryan went on to study art in Germany and France, where he drew famous cellist Pablo Casals. He then taught at Dartmouth starting in 1974, only two years after the university went coed, and became the head of Visual Studies. He always enjoyed teaching.

“I tell people I am here to learn too. So if you want to know what I know, you’ll exhaust me in a half an hour, but if you share with me what you know we can go on indefinitely.”

Bryan opened the Ashley Bryan Center in 2013 and now lives in Maine. The awards dinner honoring Bryan begins at 6pm and the conference continues on Saturday.

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