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Ashley Bryan: The Spirit of Joy and The Wee Worlds of Salley Mavor

09/30/2023 - 01/07/2024

Two exhibitions featuring the work of New England artists Ashley Bryan and Salley Mavor open at Southern Vermont Arts Center this fall. Both artists have earned accolades and awards for their children’s book illustrations. “SVAC celebrates the significant contributions that Ashley and Salley have made to enriching children’s lives through imagery and story. In addition, I hope visitors will come away with a better understanding of their sources of inspiration and range of creative expression,” says Alison Crites, SVAC’s Manager of Exhibitions & Interpretive Engagement.


Ashley Bryan: The Spirit of Joy:

Ashley Bryan (1923–2022) is widely respected and beloved for centering stories of Black life and African folk tales that have helped fill a void in the historically white-dominated field of children’s literature.

Over more than four decades of living and working on Little Cranberry Island off the northern coast of Maine, he amassed thousands of toys, puppets, and other curios that he lovingly and purposefully displayed throughout his home. Patterns emerge from this remarkable, eclectic, and global collection of objects that expand understanding of the subjects and themes Bryan explored in his artwork, such as: music/song/poetry, the animal world, African and African-American heritage, and family/community.

The exhibition will bring the interior of Bryan’s home to life through a selection of his toys, objects, puppets, as well as through images documenting the space, taken by Boston-based photographer Parrish Dobson. “I am delighted and gratified that Southern Vermont Arts Center has elected to set Ashley’s unbridled creativity within the equally unbridled creativity of his habitat. His house is truly a wunderkammer filled with carefully acquired mementos that, in their own way, have informed his art,” says Nichols Clark, Founding Director of The Ashley Bryan Center in Islesford, ME. Nine of Bryan’s oil and acrylic paintings spanning several decades from the 1950s to the early 2000s will be on view, courtesy of The Ashley Bryan Center. In addition, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (Amherst, MA) is lending more than 30 of Bryan’s book illustrations for the exhibition, showcasing his versatility in a range of media: collage, tempera, linoleum cuts, graphite drawings, and more.

SVAC is honored to be the first institution to bring public and scholarly attention to understudied aspects of Ashley Bryan’s life and work. A variety of public programs for youth, families, and adults will complement the exhibition and further engage our audiences.

This exhibition is sponsored in part by Awesome Graphics of Rutland, VT.

The Wee Worlds of Salley Mavor:
This exhibition is a unique opportunity to experience the exceptional detail and 3-dimensional quality of Salley Mavor’s bas-relief embroideries. Viewing her artwork up close is like being immersed in make-believe miniature worlds full of characters, props, and scenery, all created by hand with stitching, fabric, beads, wire, and found objects.

The award-winning artist has spent four decades developing her signature style and working methods, carving out her own niche within the children’s book world and the fiber art community. Mavor says, “My aim is to breathe life and emotion into embroidery, an art form that is often perceived as purely decorative.”

On view is a wide array of original picture book illustrations spanning her career, including the entire series of artwork for her most recent book, MY BED: Enchanting Ways to Fall Asleep around the World as well as select scenes from Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Also on display are recent pieces that explore cultural diversity, migration, fashion, the natural world, and a range of social narratives from the everyday to topical subjects.

In conjunction with the opening of these exhibitions, the following programs are planned for September 30:

Joyful Remembrances
1–2 p.m.

Four panelists will share their joyful remembrances of Ashley Bryan drawn from their relationships, both personal and professional, with him.

  • Nichols B. Clark, founding director of The Ashley Bryan Center and founding director and chief curator emeritus of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

  • Parrish Dobson, photographer and educator

  • Jennifer R. Gross, independent curator and writer

  • Ashley J. Swepson, nephew of Ashley Bryan

Public Opening
2–4 p.m.

All are welcome to join in celebrating the opening of the exhibitions. Admission is free and complimentary refreshments will be served.

Salley Mavor Artist Talk
3 p.m.

Salley Mavor will give a short presentation about her 3-dimensional hand-stitched artwork.


September 30
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Southern Vermont Arts Center
860 Southern Vermont Arts Center Dr
Manchester, VT 05255 United States
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