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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: April 20, 2017

L/A Arts celebrates the joyful life of Ashley Bryan

Written by: Bob Keyes
Ashley Bryan is an artist, puppet-maker and poet. Photos courtesy of L/A Arts

Ashley Bryan is an author, artist, puppet-maker and poet. Photo courtesy of L/A Arts

LEWISTON – Maine artist Ashley Bryan is in the spotlight again. L/A Arts, the arts agency for Lewiston and Auburn, launches its Artist Days in L/A initiative by celebrating the creative life of the author, illustrator and storyteller from Little Cranberry Island.

“Ashley Bryan Days in L/A” will include a new documentary by Maine filmmaker Richard Kane, “I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan.” The movie will screen on Saturday afternoon as part of the Emerge Film Festival, which begins Thursday in Lewiston, and Bryan plans to attend.

“I saw Dick Kane’s film premiere at the Maine International Film Festival last summer and was moved by it,” said Louise Rosen, L/A Arts director. “I thought that celebrating the artist in this context would be really meaningful.”

Bryan, 93, works in a variety of media, including stained glass and collage. He’s also a puppet-maker and poet. He’s written and illustrated more than 50 books, many based on African folktales or inspired by African-American spirituals and lives. His latest book, “Freedom Over Me,” imagines the lives of 11 slaves, and earlier this year won a Newbery Honor.

A reading of “Freedom Over Me,” which Bryan also plans to attend, begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at Rinck Advertising, 113 Lisbon St., Lewiston.

A New York native and World War II veteran, Bryan first came to Maine to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and moved to Isleford on Little Cranberry Island to live full time in 1988, after retiring from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

He’s known for his enthusiasm and joy, and for engaging audiences with his stories and dramatic presentations of poetry.

Throughout April, Figures of Speech Theatre has been leading in-school puppetry workshops for local kids, inspired by Bryan’s storytelling and puppets. Beginning May 6, the Atrium Gallery at University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College will open “Inspired by Ashley Bryan,” an exhibition of large-format images of Bryan’s puppets, alongside the work made by the students. The exhibition will be on view through June 2.

Local libraries also are getting involved. Lewiston Public Library hosts “Artsy Fartsy Storytime” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, focusing on Bryan’s book “Beautiful Blackbird.” Across the river, Auburn Public Library has presented readings and puppet workshops throughout April and will screen “I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan” at 6:30 p.m. May 8.

“Ashley Bryan is a national treasure,” Rosen said in a press release, “and his much-beloved books have touched children and families everywhere.”


  • “Freedom Over Me” reading, 11 a.m. Saturday, Rinck Advertising, 113 Lisbon St., Lewiston; reception at 11:30 a.m.
  • “Artsy Fartsy Storytime: Ashley Bryan,” 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Lewiston Public Library, 200 Lisbon St.
  • “The Maine Art Scene,” panel discussion, 1 p.m. Saturday, Rinck Advertising, 113 Lisbon St., Lewiston
  • “I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan,” a documentary film, screens as part of the Emerge Film Festival at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Franco Center, 46 Cedar St., Lewiston
  • “Inspired by Ashley Bryan,” photos of puppets by Ashley Bryan and puppets made by area school kids, May 6 through June 2, the Atrium Gallery at USM’s Lewiston Auburn College, 51 Westminster St., Lewiston
  • “I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan” screening, 6:30 p.m. May 8, Auburn Public Library, 46 Spring St., Auburn
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