The Amazing Ashley Bryan

"I grew up during the Great Depression years, but I was always drawing. Why? Because there was the free Works Progress Administration (WPA) founded during the Depression by the government to employ artists and musicians in communities throughout the country. And my parents sent their six children, and the three cousins my parents raised after my aunt died, to these free classes in music and art. We all learned to play instruments. We were all drawing and painting. These things had nothing to do with what we would become in life. It had everything to do with being human."

"When I was about 12 or 13 years old, the church leaders at St. John’s said to me, “Ashley you have a talent. You must therefore share it. We will give you the room and the materials and you will have classes in drawing and painting for the people of the community, the children and all.” And that is how my love for teaching started. I found right off that I loved sharing what I enjoyed doing in the arts with others, so I knew that teaching would be an area that I would always be involved in.

When I was to be employed later, it was in the teaching of art that was a natural fit to me because it was the area in which I had the most to give. And it was that training from the church—you have a gift, you must share it with others—that I learned you don’t hold onto what you have.

I believe the excitement that a teacher feels is what the student is tapping into. If the students feel the teacher is excited about what he or she is sharing, and is not just in it because he or she is being paid to teach the course, they often tap into it. They may not become sociologists or dancers or singers, but they will have felt inspired by the excitement of what the teacher is sharing."

"I don’t think artists know what retirement means, really. I always have a sketch book in hand. It doesn’t matter where I am or what it is, that sketch book will always be active whether I am on what you would call vacation or whatever. I don’t think of retirement. You must wake up as a child. You must wake up with the feeling of curiosity and adventure that [a] child faces when awaking."


For the full, inspiring interview and many more photos of Ashley and his work, click here.