ROCKLAND — The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland will honor Islesford artist, illustrator and author Ashley Bryan with its 2022 Maine in America Award.
The award is given each year to an artist who has made an “outstanding contribution to Maine’s role in American art.”
In announcing the award, Farnsworth Director Christopher Brownawell called Bryan “a cultural treasure.”
“Bryan stands out for the extraordinary range and diversity of his work. He is a painter, book illustrator, puppet maker, writer, and teacher, for whom music is also a much-loved part of his life,” said the Farnsworth’s chief curator, Michael Komanecky.”
The Farnsworth is planning to exhibit some of Bryan’s work next summer.
Bryan, who turned 98 in July, said he is honored to be selected as the recipient of the Maine in America Award.
“This recognition is more than a tribute to me; it is the tribute to all artists of Maine and especially those of color as it impacts on the role Maine plays in the art of America,” he said.
“It is my hope that through my art, all artists will see what is beautiful in themselves and explore something of art. Making art is one of the most adventurous experiences you can have.”
Bryan has won many awards including the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal and the New York Public Library’s Literary Lions Award.
The book, “Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace,” which Bryan wrote and illustrated, won the 2020 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Nonfiction and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.
Born in Harlem, New York City in 1923, Ashley was raised in the Bronx. At 17, he entered the tuition-free Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering, having been denied entry elsewhere because of his race. Drafted out of art school into the U.S. Army at age 19, he was assigned to serve in a segregated unit as a member of the 502nd Port Battalion, landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Ashley continued drawing throughout World War II, oftentimes stowing his art supplies in his gas mask. After the war, he completed his Cooper Union degree, studied philosophy and literature at Columbia University on the GI Bill, and then went to Europe on a Fulbright scholarship.
Upon returning to the United States, Bryan taught art at Queen’s College, Philadelphia College of Art, Lafayette College, and Dartmouth College before retiring in 1988 and settling permanently in the community of Islesford on Little Cranberry.