Posts Tagged ‘Bates College Museum of Art’


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="; 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!


Art Exhibits

July 16, 2018

Visit Maine museums this summer

Maine is fortunate to have several amazing art museums and other venues to view art work by outstanding artists. Some of my favorite artists and art work are on display throughout the summer and into the fall. I hope that you take time to visit one or more of the following and consider taking your students to the shows. Check them out. Please note: these are not the only shows at these locations nor are they the only locations and shows taking place this summer. Support your local art venue!

  • Bates College Museum of Art (Lewiston) – Amazing Maine artist Dahlov Ipcar created art until she passed earlier this year. “Dahlov Ipcar: Blue Moons & Menageries” includes a wide variety of her art work. Read the story of how she impacted a Maine child who now as an adult curated the show. June 1 – October 6
  • Center for Maine Contemporary Art (Rockland) – Brunswick artist John Bisbee is an inspiration to all, especially those who are dyslexic. In his first solo show “John Bisbee: American Steel” in 10 years, he forges and welds nails in amazing ways. It is a powerful show. In a recent article from the Portland Press Herald John tells about his present work – stretching himself in many ways and even including text. June 30 – October 14
  • Monhegan Museum of Art & History – Celebrating the museums 50th birthday with 80 of the artists who came to the island to create and were awed and inspired by its indescribably light and rugged beauty. July 1 – September 30
  • Portland Museum of Art  – “Painter and Poet”. At a young age, Ashley Bryan noticed the lack of children’s books with African American characters. Through his work as an artist, author, and educator, he has committed himself to filling that void in black representation by creating books about the African and African American experiences. The show includes drawings, paintings and puppets. Consider taking your students to see Ashley’s amazing art work, sure to inspire. Ashley is a kind and gentle giant who lights up a room when he walks into it. At age 95 he continues creating. August 3 – November 25
  • Farnsworth Art Museum“Stories of the Land and Its People”  includes artwork created by 162 students in grades 4 and 7 from Appleton, Lincolnville, and Hope Schools. A wide variety of work that is based on the study a variety of subjects including Maine studies, science, environment, poetry, and geography. May 20 – September 9
  • Colby College Museum of Art (Waterville) – John Marin exhibit “Modern Wonder” includes a wide breath of Marin’s work. He looked at towering skyscrapers and bustling streets of Manhattan and rollicking waters and windy coast of Maine and saw great forces at work. June 5 – August 19

Bates College Museum of Art

June 13, 2015

Educator’s workshop

August 28th from 3:00-5:00. The workshop will include a tour of the upcoming show and refreshments.

Points of View, is an exhibition of contemporary photography featuring new and recent works by Jay Gould, of Baltimore, Md., Gary Green, of Waterville, Me., David Maisel, of Marin, Ca. and Shoshannah White, of Portland, Me. Viewing elements of the Maine landscape from different levels of scale – from great distance to close-up, each artist explores a different aspect of the interrelationships between human populations and the natural world. The exhibition runs from June 12 through October 24, 2015 at Bates Museum of Art.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 10.58.53 AMThe Bates College Museum of Art offers tours for schools groups and community members free of charge. To register for the workshop please contact Anne Odom at 786-8212 or To schedule a tour for your class or classes, please contact the museum’s education staff at our addresses below. We have a limited amount of funding for busing so don’t wait to book your tour! Funding is available through ‘ticket to ride’ from the Maine Arts Commission.

Anthony Shostak                                                                  Kimberly Bentley
Curator of Education                                                           Museum Education Fellow
(207) 786-8302                                                                    (207) 753-6904                                                  


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