Posts Tagged ‘Ashley Bryan’

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Bates College Museum of Art

October 29, 2020

Ashley Bryan

In the October 18 edition of the Portland Press Herald I learned that Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs have donated several of Ashley Bryan’s paintings to the Bates College Museum of Art. They made a commitment years ago when they started collecting Ashley’s art that it would remain in Maine. Henry painted with Ashley on Little Cranberry Island for years and Donna was the teacher in the islands one-room school house where Ashley was a visiting artist. When the Isaacs’ decided to move to Vermont they knew they wanted to insure that some of Ashley’s paintings will remain in Maine where they were created. The Ashley Bryan Center on Little Cranberry Island donated Ashley’s personal papers, to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Over the next few months the center plans to donate other works to Bates as well as Bowdoin and Colby museums, Portland Museum of Art and Farnsworth Art Museum and the bulk of his puppets going to the College of the Atlantic.

Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs on the zoom session

On Thursday, October 22 the staff, Dan Mills, the museum’s director and Anthony Shostack, curator of education provided a zoom event. Ashley’s good friend and poet Nikki Giovanni shared stories and knowledge of Ashley’s work through their long friendship and many collaborations. It was a treat to have Henry and Donna on the zoom session. A much larger treat was Ashley Bryan himself. Ashley had COVID-19 in the spring while living in Texas. He recovered but for the first time he was unable to travel to his beloved Little Cranberry Island. Recently he broke his wrist but is recovering well. Now 97 years old he is hoping to be able to travel again to the island next summer.

Nikki Giovanni poet and collaborator with Ashley Bryant

The information below is from the Museum of Art Bates College website about the Ashley Bryan exhibit which opened on October 20. Unfortunately the museum is not open to the public at this time but the staff is providing an enormous amount of resources online specifically about the Ashley Bryan exhibit and many other resources as well.

Ashley Bryan surprise visit on the zoom session

Fortunately the museum recorded the zoom session and you can view it at <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="http://" data-type="URL" data-id="<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9_CuajU6tEE&quot; frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>THIS LINK. In addition they will be creating a virtual tour of the exhibit which can be viewed on the museum website.

October 21, 2020 – March 20, 2021

African American artist Ashley Bryan is one of Maine’s cultural treasures. A noted painter, printmaker, illustrator, author, puppet maker, and storyteller, Bryan, who turned 97 on July 13, came to Maine as a member of the first class to attend Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1946. He began to summer regularly in the Cranberry Isles, a group of islands off Mount Desert Island, in the late 1940s, and has lived on Little Cranberry Island year-round since the late 1980s. In 2019, Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs, longtime friends and neighbors of Bryan’s on Little Cranberry Island, donated over fifty works of art including paintings, drawings, and prints, and numerous other items including copies of his books. The core of this exhibition is drawn from this generous gift.

Ashley Bryan, #4 White Hollyhocks, n.d., acrylic on canvas, 32 x 28 in., Bates College Museum of Art, gift of Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs, 2019.2.2

Bryan’s passion for storytelling was fueled by trips to the public library as a child, where he read folktales, novels, biographies, and poetry. However, there were few opportunities to identify with African-Americans in the books he found. This is a problem he has been determined to address in his books ever since. Bryan has written and illustrated more than fifty books, many inspired by African folktales and Black American spirituals. These include award winning titles such as: Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace (2020); I Am Loved (2018), Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan (2016); Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song (2009); Beautiful Blackbird (2003); All Night, All Day: A Child’s First Book of African American Spirituals (1992), among many others. Illustrations from selected books, and a reading area are part of the exhibition.

Ashley Bryan, Family Circle (Self Portrait), ca. 1970, linocut on paper, 18 1/4 x 17 7/8 in. (framed), Bates College Museum of Art, gift of Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs, 2019.2.11

Like his book illustrations, Bryan’s paintings are varied in subject. Works from earlier in his career are often expressionistic and representational painted in a naturalistic palette, with subjects including family, friends, musicians, landscapes and gardens, and images painted while abroad. Later paintings share the brilliantly colorful palette of many of his book illustrations, and include lush and vivid gardens and scenic images from Little Cranberry Isle. In the artist’s words,

“I can’t remember a time when I have not been drawing and painting. In kindergarten, when I learned the alphabet and then drew the pictures for each letter, it was a wonderful experience because the teacher said I had published a book when I reached the end and sewed it together. Because of the encouragement I received as a child, in school and at home, I continued doing those books. I don’t know how much those experiences were actually behind what I’m doing now in a direct sense, but it was the spirit in which it was opened to me, that in which I really believed.”

Ashley Bryan was born in Harlem, New York, in 1923, and grew up in the Bronx during the Great Depression. His parents emigrated from Antigua in the Caribbean and settled in New York City after the First World War. When applying for scholarships to art schools as a 16-year old, he was told his portfolio was among the most impressive submitted, but he was denied acceptance, because “…it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a colored person.” He was accepted to Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering in 1940 where the application process was based solely on Bryan’s portfolio and “they did not see me.” Bryan was drafted into the segregated US Army while a student, and he was on Omaha Beach on D-Day in World War II. Bryan earned a BS cum laude from Columbia University, received a scholarship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and continued his studies at Université d’Aix-Marsaille, France, in the 1940s, and at the University of Freiburg, Germany on a Fulbright scholarship in the 1950s. He taught art at numerous institutions In New York and Philadelphia between 1960 and 1973, and taught at Dartmouth from 1974-88.

Ashley Bryan, [Untitled Collage from Beautiful Blackbird], n.d., paper collage, 20 1/2 x 28 in. (framed), Bates College Museum of Art, gift of Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs, 2019.2.4

The museum is deeply grateful to Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs for so generously donating their Ashley Bryan collection of art and books, and for sharing their knowledge and insights into Bryan’s work. With this gift as a wonderful foundation, the museum hopes to develop a significant collection of Bryan’s art, particularly his paintings, in Maine, the state he has been connected to for almost 75 years. Thank you to Henry and Donna for supporting the exhibition and its education/outreach programs for area schoolchildren.

The museum is also indebted to Merry White for lending a fine painting to the exhibition. A special thank you to Marcia and Daniel Minter, and Ashley Page, of Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland for collaborating with us on educational materials and activities from The Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival, which are included in the exhibition and part of the educational programming for area schoolchildren. A heartfelt thank you to Virginia Fowler and Nikki Giovanni for generously supporting the exhibition’s education programming. Thank you to Diverse BookFinder, and especially Krista M. Aronson, Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean of the Faculty, for advice and participation in programming.  

This exhibition and programming are funded in part by the Jane Costello Wellehan Endowment Fund.

I’ve blogged about Ashley Bryan several times in the past. Got to the side bar and type in Ashley Bryan in the search archives window and you can click on each of the links if you’d like to learn more. My favorite post from the past was the story about music teacher Kate Smith and I traveling to Little Cranberry to visit Ashley in his home and studio. It was a magical day! Read about it!

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Incredible Resources in Maine

September 15, 2020

Ashley Bryan

As educators around the world seek ways to incorporate racial justice into their curriculum right here in Maine we have a treasure that leads us to multiple resources. Ashley Bryan, now 97, has been sharing stories, songs, history, and the culture of black people for years through his work as an artist.

Ashley first came to Maine in 1946 to study at the Skowhegan School of Paining and Sculpture Ashley. In 1988 he retired from Dartmouth College and moved to Little Cranberry Island where he has continued to create. In 2013 the Ashley Bryan Center was established to preserve the over nine decades of Ashley’s work. His art has a strong message but is stated in a joyful way, as only Ashley Bryan can do. He has received many awards including the Coretta Scott King Award for illustrators multiple times and the John Newberry Medal.

Ashley’s work is on display in the Maine State House until December 30 as part of Art in the Capital provided by the Maine Arts Commission (MAC) with a virtual show on the MAC site.

Recently Maine Public Broadcast featured I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan, a film created by Kane Associates and available streaming.

The Ashley Bryan Resource & Activity Guide is available for free. In addition is the companion short film. Thanks to Richard Kane, Melody Lewis-Kane, and Kane Productions for their outstanding work.
In 2018 Kate Smith and I traveled to Ashley’s home on Little Cranberry. It was a special day and I shared the adventure in a blog post.
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Indigo Arts Alliance

June 19, 2020

Releases every Friday

Indigo Arts Alliance  is a proud partner with I’m Your Neighbor Books and Diverse Book Finder bringing this important program for young children and families everywhere.

Starting today and every #FestivalFriday through August 31, Indigo will release a new reading video on the Beautiful Blackbird website that highlights a different book, as well as its Black author and illustrator.  Browse the book titles here and stay tuned for the live recordings, performances, arts and crafts activities weekly this Summer!

Stay connected to Indigo Arts Alliance on Facebook, and Instagram for updates.

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Ashley Bryan Resources

September 13, 2019

Grades 4-12

Some of you might remember my blog post last year at this time as a follow up to visiting Ashley Bryan at his home on Little Cranberry Island. Elementary music educator Kate Smith and I traveled by boat to visit Ashley to learn more about his work. It was an amazing opportunity – Kate went back to school excited with ideas on how to incorporate Ashley’s work and attitude about life into her everyday lessons and school community. Ashley, now 96 years old, has written and illustrated many children’s books – Beautiful Blackbird and Freedom Over Me to name two of my favorites. Ashley is truly a treasure who has committed his life to kindness, truth, fairness, art and education. I am grateful for what he has given not only to Maine, but to the world!!

The Ashley Bryan Resource & Activity Guide is now available and is free for educators. Several Maine educators piloted the resources and it was completed in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Three guides

  • Grades 4-6 English Language Arts and Visual Art
  • Grades 7-12 English Language Arts and Visual Art
  • Grades 7-12 Social Studies

The short 15:48 minute version of the film I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan is the companion to each of them and can be accessed at THIS LINKI’m sure once you view the video it will give you ideas on how to use the resources in your classroom. It is available for a 72-hour period for $1.79.

The Resource & Activity Guide is a collaboration of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Kane-Lewis Productions in Sedgwick, Maine. Any questions please contact: Melody Lewis-Kane at melody.lewiskane@gmail.com

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In Today’s News

February 3, 2019

Ashley Bryan’s collection

I’ve made several posts about Ashley Bryan’s work. The Bangor Daily News writes about where his collection of artifacts  will live in the future. Read all about it in the ARTICLE.

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A Visit to Ashley’s

October 23, 2018

Last week of summer vacation

During the last two days I have posted two stories about Ashley Bryan. The first on the collaboration of Ovations Offstage, Portland Museum of Art and Theater Ensemble of Color to bring to life Beautiful Blackbird. Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the last performance of Beautiful Blackbird at Hannaford Hall on the USM campus. Yesterday’s blog post was about the requiem that Aaron Robinson wrote to celebrate Ashley’s life. It is an amazing story and a wonderful tribute to an amazing man.

Traveling to Islesford 

I was fortunate to travel to Ashley’s home on Islesford in late August. I was lead there by my former student Aaron Robinson. Yes, the same one who wrote the requiem. We were communicating after I read the article in the Maine Sunday Telegram about Aaron’s and Ashley’s collaboration. I had so many questions and Aaron finally said: “Why don’t you go to the island and visit Ashley? If you don’t you will regret it.” So, once I figured out how to make that happen I asked music teacher Kate Smith if she wanted to go along for the boat ride and visit to the island. She was as excited as me (perhaps more)!

We left in the early morning on the drive to Southwest Harbor, hopped on the ferry and arrived in the late morning on the island. Someone kindly gave us directions to Ashley’s: “Go up the hill, make a right, walk to the intersection of the two roads by the grey home with the white fence and turn left. At the next intersection turn right, go down aways and look for a sign low to the ground that says: The Storyteller Pavilion.”  We were greeted at the door by Ashley’s niece, Bari. She suggested that we look around while Ashley finished his lunch. Mouths open, eyes wide we took in the beautiful art, amazing toys, brilliant colors everywhere and the collections of many years. Ashley is 95 and over the years he has collected amazing artifacts from his travels and of course, he has created a fair amount of art as well – which is everywhere.

Ashley’s home

We were in awe in his studio where he carefully creates his stained glass with the use of papier mache and sea glass. His life like marionettes made from treasures collected along the rocky shore were hanging in groups as if visiting one another. We spent some time in the pavilion where we could see his completed stained glass, his early paintings done at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, and several puppets.

We returned to visit with Ashley and shared a cup of tea, banana and molasses bread. We asked questions and listened intently. His perspective so unique and interesting. It was such a pleasure to hear what he had to say. His wit sharp, clarity of words/messages, and smile lit up the room.

We asked how to respectfully teach music and art from other cultures when we are such foreigners to them. He emphatically said: “don’t not teach it for that reason”. He and Bari told a story about a visiting chorus in another country. At the end a woman approached them with tears in her eyes and thanked them for singing in their language and said that no one had visited and sang in the native language.

Kate Smith brings it home
When asked  if he had a special message we could take back to the teachers and students of Maine, Ashley said something along these lines:
“Embrace each day with joy, wonder, discovery and rediscovery.”
I happened to be rereading the book “Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE and other Special Areas” at the time. As I pondered Ashley’s message and the beautiful conversations we had, I wondered how I could bring it back to my school and students in a way that would be impactful for all of us. It lead to a “rediscovery” of our school mission statement which ends with “together we learn”. I pondered, “What does ‘together we learn’ mean?” I began to see it as an anthem, a battle cry of sorts. I put the mission statement to music, making sure to give it a sense of joy. Instead of ending with “together we learn” we begin with it. At each Friday assembly I read a list of skills, knowledge or routines students have learned that week and as each one is called out the students sing “Together We learn” on sol-mi syllables. I have called out anything from ” colors” to “place value” to “cafeteria rules”. It is a fun way to celebrate what others are learning. The kids LOVE it. We then roll right into a roll call in which they stand as grade levels to sing our mission statement: “Challenge, success and love of learning for everyone, every day.” This transformation has added a richness to our purpose as students and teachers and drawn us together as a community of learners.

Both Kate and I were so grateful to have journeyed to the island to meet Ashley. It was a magical amazing day that will be forever in our memories!

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A Tender Bridge

October 22, 2018

Composer Aaron Robinson

In August I was excited to read in the Maine Sunday Telegram about the work Maine composer Aaron Robinson was doing with artist Ashley Bryan. Aaron happens to be a former student of mine so I reached out to Aaron to learn more.

Ashley Bryan

Aaron Robinson collaborated with Ashley on an African-American requiem for chamber orchestra, choir and spoken voice.

He’s calling it “A Tender Bridge: An African American Requiem,” based on a Bryan quote: “I always confuse the past and the future, the way I mix up death and life – they are connected only by a tender bridge. This is why stories are at the heart of civilization.”

Thank you to Aaron for taking on this amazing work and for sharing the story. Truly a gift to the Maine Arts Education blog readers!
AARON’S OWN WORDS
Back to 1993 – starting out

Aaron Robinson

In 1993, when I was 22 years old, I began composing what most composers write in later life: a Requiem. My initial want was to incorporate the styles and idioms of the music I had become synonymous with: gospel, early jazz, spirituals, etc. I even took serious thought in writing the very first “Ragtime Requiem”. It seems foolish to say those two words together today because I was far too inexperienced to take on such an endeavor. So I opted to focus on incorporating the music of America; and by 1997 I had completed what is known today as “An American Requiem”. However, as my career in African-American music grew over the decades, the thought never left me to create a musical work that utilized these elements.

Sara Bloom’s vision
In February 2017, I was approached by Sara Bloom, with an idea she had been culminating for many years to “create a musical work for the great poet-painter-reteller of African tales, Ashley Bryan.” In early stages of discussion, the idea was first presented as a large work that involved Ashley Bryan with orchestra, adult and children choruses and soloists. What would evolve over the next few months from that initial seed of invitation was a monumental 90-minute work for full symphony orchestra, chorus, soloists, jazz ensemble (drum set, upright bass, B3-Hammond organ and jazz piano), children’s choir and narrators based on the Requiem mass in the African-American tradition drawing upon the writings of Ashley Bryan with biblical scriptures chosen by the author himself; along with specially selected poetry by African-American poets such as Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes.

Aaron, Ashley, Sara

Sara Bloom has served as consortium builder and coordinator; tirelessly assembling orchestras across the country to join the Bryan/Robinson Consortium. This allows special musical organizations that have joined the consortium the exclusive right to perform A TENDER BRIDGE between now and 2021 and call it a “premiere” within their cities. All praise and credit goes to Sara for her inspired idea for this incredible work featuring Ashley Bryan. Without her, none of this would have happened. Furthermore, she has given me the opportunity to fulfill a dream that has stayed with me for nearly 25 years.

Creative Portland is serving as fiscal sponsor for the consortium. They are absolutely fantastic and a tremendous asset to the state of Maine, sponsoring unique and specialized projects through the Arts.
Aaron in the world of Ashley Bryan
For months on end I did nothing but emerge myself into the world of Ashley Bryan while writing the Requiem: his writings, his art, his image (video and audio), and of course – in person. I had collected several passages from his poetry and prose that would serve as either narration or spoken accompaniment; but I still needed that unique Ashley Bryan touch.
The work is entitled A TENDER BRIDGE, taken from one of Ashley Bryan’s favorite quotes by Senegalese poet Leopold Sedar Senghor: “Je confonds présent et passé Comme je mêle la Mort et la Vie – un pont de douceurs les relie.” (I always confuse the present and the past. I mix Life and Death. A tender bridge relinks them.) But Ashley puts a special touch all his own in re-quoting: “I always confuse the past and the future, the way I mix up death and life – they are connected only by a tender bridge. This is why stories are at the heart of civilization.”
This is how Ashley and I worked together on this piece: I had gathered the 13 movements of the Requiem mass text, translated the Latin into English, and brought them to Ashley at his home on Little Cranberry Island. Although, I had already chosen text from his writing through the numerous books he has published, including his autobiography, “Words to My Life Song,” I wanted to have his personal touch within the work.
When I first sat down with Ashley at his table to review the movements of the mass with him, surrounded by endless toys from around the world hanging overhead, on the walls, shelves … everything, I explained the latin text and its translation and then asked what piece of writing might be appropriate to accompany each section. To watch him think, remember, create, formulate and muse into being a particular poem, scripture or piece of prose was absolutely astounding. At times he would silently get up from his chair and go to one of the many bookcases in his home and search for a book in a seas of books, bring it back to the table, thumb through its pages, and find just the right poem by an African-American poet that perfectly encompassed the message of the mass text. He is as fluent in French as he is English and at times would recite Rilke, and then in the next breath recall lengthy passages of biblical verse. Childhood recitations from 85 years ago were recalled as easily as that morning’s breakfast items. It was incredible.
Two components in the music
The music itself has two key components that are crucial to its composition. The first being that it draws heavily upon the African-American heritage. The idioms and genres found within A TENDER BRIDGE incorporate the entire musical history of the African-American: African chant, Negro and Gospel spirituals, southern church hymns, ragtime and early jazz, contemporary jazz and Gospel, interpolated with classical symphonic and choral music.
In the movement “Sanctus,” which is usually a joyful movement celebrating the text: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and Earth are full of thy Glory! Hosanna in the highest!”, I set the text as a spirited ragtime Two-Step. Also, most Requiems end with an angelic “In Paradisum” (May the angels lead you into paradise, may you have eternal rest), symbolizing a peaceful, quiet transition from life to death into Paradise. However, what many people do not realize is that: “In Paradisum” served as the inspiration for “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which share the same first four notes, is similar in textual meaning, and is used during the funeral procession from the church to the cemetery.
In the African-American culture, death is not an ending but a bridge to the afterlife; which should be celebrated here on earth for the departed: not mourned. So I used James Quinn, S.J.’s translation: “May Flights of Angels Lead You On Your Way” and wrote a foot-stomping, hand-clapping Gospel Spiritual that will have everyone who is singing, performing and listening on their feet in celebration.
The second key component is that it mirrors the life and works of Ashley Bryan through music. For instance, the musical interlude that precedes the “Kyrie” depicts Ashley combing the beach on Little Cranberry Island for shells, glass and various objects for his puppets and stain glass windows. The “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath) draws upon Ashley’s days as a stevedore in the battle of Normandy; while the “Libera Me” (Deliver Me) evokes the jazz sounds and rhythms of his birth place: Harlem.
Storyteller
But I did not want this requiem to simply be a musical composition. I also wanted to integrate the storytelling aspect into the work since Ashley Bryan is a storyteller; and what is life – but a story?
One of the first lines we hear Ashley say in A TENDER BRIDGE is his own: “BEAT THE STORY DRUM! PUM! PUM! TELL US A BIG STORY!” – that is how the narrative element of the work begins.
What first appealed to me with Ashley Bryan’s writing was the same message that I kept finding throughout my journey in music over the past 3 decades: universality – bridging the gap; celebrating one’s culture by inviting all to partake equally.
Growing up in the backwoods of Maine, ignorant to the vast diversities of race, creed and color, the only education I experienced came from the music I listened to as a self-taught musician. When I grew older, I realized the barriers that were placed around most of this music were man-made; yet the message behind the music was universal – it had no barriers.
There is nothing more universal than life, death and love: which is what A TENDER BRIDGE is all about. The story tells the journey of a single man – the narrator / caller – who, when we first meet him, represents humankind: each of us. As the story unfolds, we realize the narrator is actually Christ, as we are all Children of God. There is a moment following the celebratory movement “Sanctus” when life is joyful and jubilant, the “valley” occurs, and the narrator feels he is abandoned by God. He says, “And so it begins … Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” We all have these “cups” in life; and ask God to take it from us.
The work then continues with a famous Langston Hughes poem: “At the Feet o’ Jesus” that the narrator sings A Cappella, before breaking off with emotion and saying: “Lord? … Lord?” but does not receive an answer. The choir then sings “Communion” while the voice of Ashley Bryan reads the familiar scripture, “The Lord took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it …”
Another character in A TENDER BRIDGE is a single child. The child is first seen as being frightened by a storm. She portrays innocence – what we are born with, what we lose, and what is found again – and in the end: takes us to paradise. It is the child that calms and leads the narrator into Paradise, with the words spoken by Ashley: “And a child shall lead them.”
The work itself is similar to the format of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS – in that there are characters that take the form and role of storytellers, participants and soloists. They are representational of us all as we travel through life to the other side via the movements found within the liturgical mass. Ashley’s voice – which we hear but we never see him – represents the answers to our questions, gives us comfort, shows us guidance, and unconditional love – but more importantly, he is the voice of God.
Ashley’s voice
I went to Ashley’s home and recorded him speaking the lines for A TENDER BRIDGE. These audio recordings will be used in each premiere and performance of the work. There are several familiar Ashley Bryan lines that are incorporated into the work: “Let us walk together, Children!” and the final line of the Requiem: “There’s a great camp meeting in the promised land!”
I visited Ashley in July 2018 to play the finished work for him on his piano at his home. While I played, he read his own words. It was incredibly moving for me; and one of the most rewarding performances in music that I have ever taken part in. After performing the movement “What then shall I say? Poor child that I am?,” Ashley said, “That’s so beautiful, I could cry.” There were many tears, I can tell you.
Interesting Story: I wrote the music for the section “Communion” as an A Cappella choral setting; but wasn’t entirely happy with it. I thought it “lacked something”. Later I chose to place the well known African American spiritual “Let Us Break Bread Together” as a soprano descant above the choir. Several months later, long after A Tender Bridge was complete, while watching the film “I Know A Man … Ashley Bryan” by Richard Kane at Mayo Street Arts Center – there was a scene where Ashley Bryan was playing the piano in his home several years prior … and what hymn was he playing? “Let Us Break Bread Together”. That is the magic of Ashley Bryan.
History
There has never been an African-American Requiem. Duke Ellington wrote 3 sacred concerts for The Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (but he specifically made sure not to write a liturgical mass) and Quincy Jones wrote a Black Requiem but it was actually an oratorio written for Ray Charles depicting the life and the African American from the slave ships to the Watts Riots. Jazz has been incorporated into the requiem mass: Vince Guaraldi at Grace Cathedral was the first, Karl Jenkins, Andrew Lloyd Webber, etc.
A moment in time made clear
In working with Ashley and having the privilege of collaborating with him on a creative level, I have come to realize that I have been witness to someone who has come close to what is called: “Nirvana.” Perfect peace and happiness here on earth, like Heaven. There is an endless flow of people, an exodus of admirers, followers, who travel to Little Cranberry just to have a moment with Ashley, to see his artwork, to hear his voice, to take something away with them – a small piece of Ashley – that they will cherish and never forget.
He is one of the few people that I have met in this lifetime that when you are with him, you feel as though you are the only one who exists. Nothing is fake, nothing is forced; everything is genuine, real and unconditional. The outside world ends at the dock by the water and you are transported for a brief moment into a realm of absolute purity, understanding, honesty, generosity, caring, acceptance and love. He is still very much a child at heart; and has remained child-like with the purest of qualities. You feel as though he believes in you without ever having said a word to that effect. Like the birds in his stories, you feel as though you could fly home across the water … who needs a boat?
There is a musical called “Once On This Island” based on the story “The Peasant Girl” by Rosa Guy. It is one of my favorite musicals of all time. The last lines sung within the play are: “Life is why: We tell the story. Pain is why: We tell the story. Love is why: We tell the story. Grief is why: We tell the story. Hope is why: We tell the story. Faith is why: We tell the story. YOU are why …”
Life, pain, love, grief, hope and faith can all be found within A TENDER BRIDGE; and Ashley Bryan is why I tell the story.
The future for A TENDER BRIDGE
From the beginning, Sara Bloom has envisioned a premiere in Maine – with Maine soloists and performers. Since Ashley Bryan has called Maine his home since retiring to Islesford in the 1980s, and Sara has been friends with Ashley for as many years, she thought it only appropriate that a premiere should take place here.
As someone who can trace his lineage back 12-generations, born in Camden, and recognized as an American composer from Maine, it is my hope – and the hope of all those who are involved with this project – that this will take place here, as well.
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Carol Trimble Award

October 16, 2018

Kate Smith – CONGRATULATIONS!

During the pre-MICA Arts Education conference at USM two weeks ago the Carol Trimble Award was presented to Kate Smith. The award is presented to an educator who contributes exemplary service to the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative/Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) for their commitment, collaborative spirit and contributions. Carol Trimble was an amazing advocate for arts education. She retired as Executive Director from the Maine Alliance for Arts Education. The award was established in 2013 to honor Carol and her work.

Kate with one of her third grade classes with her Carol Trimble award.

Kate is an energetic music teacher currently teaching music to 430 preK-third grade students at Central Elementary School in South Berwick, Maine where she has been since 2003. Kate earned her music education degree from USM and a Master’s degree in Technology in Education from Lesley University. Kate was honored as 2014 York County Teacher of the Year for her passion for innovation and creativity. Kate serves as a teacher leader and design team member for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, the Parade Coordinator for South Berwick’s annual Lanternfest and a coordinator for Central School’s farm-to-table program. Kate lives in southern Maine with her amazing husband and three children.

Music Educator Kris Bisson, Kate Smith, teaching artist Brian Evans-Jones at the MALI Mega 2018

Kate is well respected in the education world, not only for music but for her work continuing work with the outdoor classroom at Central School. Kate is a remarkable grant writer and many learners of all ages have benefited in her school and community. She has presented many workshops on a variety of topics for conferences at the local, regional and state level. Her most recent was for the Pre-Maine International Conference on the Arts (MICA) leading the music/dance session and at the MICA facilitating a panel discussion with teaching artists and PK-12 arts teachers.

Kate presenting at the MALI summer institute 2017

In 2014 Kate became a MALI Teacher Leader and willingly shared her enthusiasm for learning. In 2015 she was part of a MALI team who traveled to  Washington, D.C. for the Teach to Lead Summit. Kate enthusiastically embraced the Logic Model the team was introduced to and ever since has guided the MALI work. Kate is so engaged in how the model can impact each of us she often stays up late writing logic models. She is the
“Logic Model Guru”. Her excitement of having the then US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sit at our table at the summit was contagious. In 2015 Kate became a member of the team who guides the MALI work where she continually gives 100% with every task and responsibility. Kate has co-led the work with the MALI Teaching Artist Leaders introducing them to the many facets of teaching and learning. Her experience working with teaching artists in her school/community has enhanced learning opportunities for many. Kate is dependable, collaborative, honest, a life-long learner, has high expectations, fun to be around, and totally committed to whatever she takes on.

I had the pleasure of traveling to Islesford with Kate at the end of the summer to meet and visit with Ashley Bryan. It was a remarkable and very special gift. Kate was so inspired that on her return she incorporated what she learned to pass on to her students and colleagues. Kate has the ability to process quickly and put ideas into action without hesitation.

With Arne Duncan, Teach to Lead Summit, summer 2015

Catherine Ring, co-founder of MALI, Executive Director of the New England Institute for Teacher Education and Visual Art Educator, has worked closely with Kate and said the following about her: Kate is an inspirational leader for arts education. She is an intelligent and passionate advocate for the arts and it’s been a pleasure to work with her for the past 6 years at the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative.

Kate took a moment out of her busy schedule to answer a couple of questions for the Maine Arts Education blog readers.

On Islesford visiting Ashley Bryan

What’s your favorite part about teaching? How do I narrow it down!?!  When you see students not only master what you’ve taught them but then own their learning. Hearing students hum, sing, or whistle the songs I’ve taught them. The joy on my students’ faces when they are creating, performing, listening and responding to music. Hearing parents say how much they love hearing their children sing in the car, at the table, in the bathroom, or in bed when they are supposed to be asleep. Knowing the children are making precious memories by sharing their singing, playing and dancing with their parents (and grandparents!) makes my heart sing!

Kate Smith, 2018 Maine Teacher of the Year and MALI music educator Kaitlin Young, Argy Nestor, Pre-MICA 2018

What are you most proud of from your career as an educator? The relationships I have made. Someone once said, in order to raise yourself up you must surround yourself with people you aspire to follow. I have been able to learn from incredible educators from across the state and region through the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, the Maine Teacher of the Year Association, USM, Lesley University, the Marshwood School District and countless other networks. There have been people who challenge me, inspire me, stretch me, believe in me. They’ve saved me a place at the table, encouraged me to use my voice, to amplify my students’ voices and have taught me to expect more from our legislators and policy makers.

CONGRATULATIONS KATE SMITH – this years awardee for the Carol Trimble Award!

Previous recipients include:

  • Catherine Ring and Rob Westerberg
  • Bronwyn Sale
  • Jeffrey Beaudry
  • Charlie Johnson

 

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Theater at the PMA

September 19, 2018

Ashley Bryan programs at the museum

As many of you know there is a fabulous exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA). Earlier blog posts can be found by using “Ashley Bryan” in the “search archives” box on the right side of the blog.

What you may not know is that there are performances taking place that brings Beautiful Blackbird, one of Ashley’s books, to life.

Learn more about the Beautiful Blackbird performances on the PMA website.

Other Ashley Bryan Programming at PMA includes:

  • PMA Family Day on October 20th, which will include an art making activity inspired by the cut paper collages and written words of Ashley Bryan, 11 am to 3 pm.
  • PMA Film screenings of I Know a Man…Ashley Bryan created by Richard Kane, in early November.

And, more theater opportunities for your classroom…

Discover how you can use theater to get your classroom excited about books, reading, and art. Join Side x Side’s lead teaching artist Gretchen Berg for a hands-on, minds-on theater workshop inspired by the exhibition Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley Bryan. Berg is a teaching artist and educator with over 30 years of experience. She is well known across New England for her work with educators and students to integrate theater, dance, and the visual arts into classroom curriculum. Berg holds an Ed.M in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and has taught at Harvard University, Bowdoin College, Bates College, and the University of Southern Maine.

FMY contact Emily Junker, Learning and Interpretation Assistant, PMA.

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In Today’s News

August 19, 2018

Ashley Bryan review

“Oh, When the Children Sing in Peace,” 2006, collage of cut colored paper on paper, from “Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals,” 12 by 20 inches. Photo from Portland Museum of Art

Daniel Kany writes a review in the Portland Press Herald today. He starts by saying:

“At 95, Ashley Bryan, a resident of Little Cranberry Island’s village of Islesford for more than three decades, is one of Maine’s most important artists. The list of problems starts here: We don’t know him.

But we should.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE.

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