Photo courtesy of Waterville Creates 4-year-old Naomi creating a "Beautiful Blackbird"-inspired collage

WATERVILLE — In honor of Black History Month, Waterville Creates, together with the Colby College Museum of Art, Kennebec Montessori School, Waterville Public Schools and the Family Violence Project, has created a special Art Kit for All to celebrate the artwork and legacy of Maine artist, Ashley Bryan. The February art kit is inspired by Bryan’s award-winning book, “Beautiful Blackbird,” a copy of which will be included in each art kit.

Bryan is an American artist, writer and illustrator of children’s books, and the majority of his subjects are derived from the African-American experience. “‘Beautiful Blackbird’ is a wonderful representation of Bryan’s spirit,” says Shannon Haines, president/CEO of Waterville Creates. “His captivating storytelling and vivid collage work make this book a treat for all ages, and it is our hope that these art kits will inspire families to not only read and create together but also to learn more about Bryan’s work.” The Beautiful Blackbird art kit will be distributed on Thursday, Feb. 25 at the Alfond Youth + Community Center, located at 124 North Street in Waterville at 4 p.m. until supplies last. A number of kits will also be available for the Alfond Weekend Backpack Program and the Waterville Public Library’s “Library To Go” program.

“Ashley Bryan is such a beloved artist, and we are thrilled that young people in Waterville will be able to draw inspiration from his beautiful book to make their own art. It’s exciting for children and families know that an artist and writer of Bryan’s stature lives right here in our state, and we are honored to have his work represented in the Colby Museum collection to share with our community,” said Jacqueline Terrassa, Carolyn Muzzy director of the Colby College Museum of Art.

To complement these special art kits, Waterville Creates and the Maine Film Center will highlight and promote streaming information for the 2016 award-winning documentary by filmmaker, Richard Kane, entitled “I Know a Man…Ashley Bryan,” throughout the month of February at www.mainefilmcenter.org. The film was featured as an official selection at the Maine International Film Festival in 2016. A long-time resident of Cranberry Island in Isleford, Bryan is deeply committed to using his artwork and writing as a vehicle to create unity and understanding around his African heritage.

For this month’s art kit, Waterville Creates is especially grateful for additional sponsorship provided by the Colby College Museum of Art and the Children’s Book Cellar.  Ongoing funding for the Art Kits for All program has been generously provided by Waterville Creates’ annual sponsors MaineGeneral Health, Kennebec Savings Bank, Colby Center for the Arts + Humanities, Bangor Savings Bank, New Dimensions Federal Credit Union and Back Office Solutions.

In direct response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, Art Kits for All is an innovative, collaborative program designed to keep our community’s families engaged and connected to the arts.  By providing free art supplies and instructions, this program offers high-quality, accessible art experiences in a completely reimagined way. The first art kits were distributed on April 8, 2020 and to date, over 3,000 kits have been distributed as part of this innovative response to the pandemic.