Get inspired tonight at the Stonington Opera House, which presents a film about a Harlem-born artist and poet who lives on the Cranberry Islands. There, 94-year-old Ashley Bryan, celebrates joy, explores the mystery of faith and mediates the darkness of war and racism.
You’ll be glad you saw Ashley Bryan’s World by Sedgwick filmmaker Richard Kane and Brooksville artist Robert Shetterly.
Ashley Bryan wrote and illustrated his first children’s book in 1962, when he was 40. He was the first African-American to write and illustrate a children’s book that was published.
“I never gave up,” he once said. “Many were more gifted than I but they gave up. They dropped out. What they faced out there in the world–they gave up.”
Since then he published more than 50 books, mostly about the African-American experience.
Life and Times of Ashley Bryan
Ashley Bryan was born in 1923 in Harlem and grew up in the Bronx, where he learned to draw, paint and play instruments at school from artists and musicians in the Works Progress Administration. He went to Cooper Union School of Art on a scholarship, the only African-American to win one. He was drafted during World War II and served as a porter in the U.S. Army. After the war he went to graduate school at Columbia University, studying philosophy so he could understand war. He then won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Europe.
He taught at Queen’s College, Lafayette College and Dartmouth College, from which he retired in the 1980s. He moved to the Cranberry Islands, where he makes puppets and stained glass windows out of sea glass.
He was the U.S. nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006, the highest award for creators of children’s books. He also won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his contribution to American children’s literature in 2009.
The Stonington Opera House is a vendor at the Stonington Farmers Market.
Photo of Ashley Bryan By Sue Hill – http://www.winterswork.com/wwashl.html, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6508295.