School hosts author and illustrator Bryan Collier

Isabella Zhang, Staff Writer

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Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Bryan Collier visited the school’s Lower and Upper Divisions on Thursday.

Collier led CCVA reflections for the community, taught collage-making to HM 246 students, and exhibited his watercolor paintings, two and three dimensional collages, and children’s books in Fisher Hall Gallery for Black History Month.

Over 100 people attended the gallery opening to speak to Collier, visual arts teacher Kim Do said.

Collier first visited the school at the Lower Division seven years ago in February of 2012.

““It is an honor to have him back working with us again,” Lower Division Associate Librarian Pat VanderWerff said. “His message ties perfectly into the Lower Division’s Emotional Intelligence work.”

Collier’s works contain images of people that are not traditionally represented and stories you do not usually hear about, Upper Division Visual Arts Department Chair Dr. Anna Hetherington said.

“It is nice seeing African American art displayed, and through his works the next generation of African American kids can learn to be proud of their culture,” Jessica Thomas (11) said.

Collier’s active involvement in social justice is another reason the school invited him to lead a reflection session, Hetherington said.

“I have been with the Harlem Horizon Studio for 12 years now, because when I first came I saw a lot of young people in the community who needed to use art as an outlet to express their feelings,” Collier said. “So I stuck around volunteering and helping these kids create their imaginations.”

His brilliant illustrations speak to children, but the moral background and history behind each of the stories is complex and eye-opening to adults as well, Hetherington said.   

During his visit, Collier read his books and created artwork with students in both the Lower and Middle Division.

“A seventh grader asked him whether he had memorized his book, because he read the books to the students as if they were having a conversation,” visual arts teacher Kim Do said.

Collier has illustrated books such as Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, but also covers historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, Do said.

“Bryan’s work expands my knowledge of a more inclusive American history,” VanderWerff said. “As a result, he enriches us as human beings capable of embracing everyone we meet as equals.”

Executive Director of College Counseling Canh Oxelson finds works illustrated by Collier as an inspi-ration for his son. “It is amazing to see an African American figures being represented in children’s books,” Oxelson said. “This was unlike what I was familiar with as a young kid.”

Ryan Finley (9) expressed admiration for Collier. “We came to see his work during art class, but I had to come again during the gallery opening to see other art works he brings with him,” Finley said.

Collier wants to encourage young adults to pursue their dreams and tell their stories to the world no matter what difficulties they face, he said.