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Ashley Bryan

July 25, 2012
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Another post from Claire!

A couple weeks ago, I took my boyfriend on his first ever visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) in Raleigh. After wandering through the galleries and the extensive Rodin collection (my favorite), we visited the other section of the museum, a separate building housing the visiting exhibitions.

In one gallery, I was surprised and delighted to find Rhythms of the Heart: The Illustration of Ashley Bryan. Ashley Bryan is a renowned writer and illustrator of children’s books, many of which are based on African American folktales, spirituals, and poetry. Bryan has won a number of prestigious awards for his books, which are viewed as a priceless contribution to American culture. His illustrations employ a number of creative techniques, including watercolor, collage, and woodblock press. They are absolutely worthy of display in any art museum, and NCMA is lucky to host the collection.

Bryan’s art has special significance for me personally, as I had the pleasure of meeting him through my AmeriCorps service earlier this year. On Global Youth Service Day, members of the NC LiteracyCorps serving in Orange County had the pleasure of hosting Read Together Children, an event featuring face painting, bookmark making, and a variety of fun literacy-centered activities for the kids in attendance. The star of the day, however, was Ashley Bryan, who made a special appearance as our guest speaker. Bryan shared stories of his passion for books and sang a selection of spirituals with a roomful of schoolchildren from Chapel Hill and Carrboro. After Bryan spoke, several of the students we tutored through America Reads had the opportunity to read their own writing for their peers and the famous author. For these children, it was surely an unforgettable day.

As I strolled through the museum in the company of Bryan’s illustrations, I realized it was a pretty unforgettable day for me too.

Rhythms of the Heart: The Illustration of Ashley Bryan runs at the North Carolina Museum of Art through August 19. Admission is free.

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