Collier, an award-winning children's author and illustrator, was guest speaker at the annual June Fox Lecture
Saturday, April 13, 2013
“As educators, that’s what you’re doing,” Collier told a packed audience in the University Hall Amphitheater on Thursday evening. “You’re planting seeds. Just be patient. Keep encouraging and keep cheerleading, and that seed is going to grow into a tree one day, and it’s going to bear fruit. Our children are watching all the time.”
Collier was the guest speaker at the 17th Annual June Fox Lecture held in honor of former Lesley University Dean June Fox, which was presented by Lesley’s Graduate School of Education and the Evelyn M. Finnegan Children’s Literature Collection.
During his talk, titled “It starts with a seed,” Collier took the audience back through his childhood in Maryland, and went on to describe the moment his desire to become an artist was ignited by a special high school art teacher. He went on to win a scholarship to the Pratt Institute in New York City, and after graduation, he pounded the pavement with his portfolio for seven years, undeterred, until he was finally picked up by a publishing house.
“I knew I had a story to tell,” he recalled.
Collier’s unique style of painting incorporates water colors and collage, and he has illustrated numerous children’s books, including “Martin’s Big Words,” about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and “Rosa,” about Rosa Parks, by Nikki Giovanni, which won a Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor Award.
“Bryan Collier is one of the most dynamic illustrators working in the field of children’s literature today,” said Associate Professor Mary Ann Cappiello, who introduced Collier to the audience and praised his nonfiction picture books as a powerful teaching tool.
Collier explained his artistic process for his books, from the idea and research stage up through the hundreds of illustrations he creates.
“Making picture books is so encouraging to me because there are so many stories that haven’t been told, which is why I have a blast trying to figure out a story in a new way,” he said. “There is just so much that I have to say and I want to have the opportunity to say.”
For “Rosa,” as with all his books, he worked to study his subject deeply, cutting through layers of myth and assumption about the Civil Rights figure.
“She was tired and wanted to sit down; that’s all they told us,” he said, reflecting on history lessons in school.
To learn more, Collier traveled to Montgomery, visited Rosa Parks’ home, met with her childhood friend, explored a city bus from the 1950s, and saw where she worked.
“She was a pillar in the community, a well-known seamstress,” said Collier. “There was no music playing, no dramatic lighting – it was a day where she said enough is enough.”
Collier, who drew a standing ovation from the audience at Lesley, fielded a number of questions about his process, his inspiration, and ways to foster children’s artistic expression in an era of cuts to arts education.
“The biggest thing we can do as parents and educators of children is to figure out an arena that’s conducive to creating art,” said Collier. “We need to let them discover that voice of artistic prowess that’s built in. Just cheer them on. Let them discover and find their way. What you’ll end up with is a young person that trusts themselves.”
The June Fox Lecture program started with the presentation of three scholarship awards to Lesley students:
- The June Fox Scholarship was presented by Dean Jack Gillette to Grace Vaughn, who is in the Early Childhood Master’s Program and is an intern in the Collaborative program with Belmont Day School.
- The William Dandridge Book Award was presented by Assistant Professor Barbara Steckel to Erin Fyfe Yang, a Specialist Teacher in the Reading Licensure Program.
- The Mario Borunda Book Award was presented by Associate Professor Benjamin Mardell to Jaclyn Bentinck-Smith, who is in the Early Childhood Master’s Program.
The lecture was followed by a reception and art exhibit of Collier’s work in the University Hall Atrium.
See more photos of Bryan Collier's visit to Lesley.
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