University Galleries hosts Rosa: The Works of Bryan Collier art exhibit

Photo Courtesy of University Galleries.

Photo Courtesy of University Galleries.

Sydney Ross, theCulture Reporter

The University Galleries at N.C. A&T will be presenting their newest virtual exhibit, Rosa: The Works of Bryan Collier. Collier is known best as an award-winning African American children’s book illustrator who has illustrated over 25 picture books with a goal to create illustrations that properly represent the African American community and culture.

The exhibit shows Collier’s illustrations from his book Rosa, authored by award-winning poet, writer and activist Nikki Giovanni. The book retells the story of one of the most historic events from the American civil rights movement and was written as a tribute to Parks.

On Feb. 24, University Galleries held a virtual discussion with Collier hosted by award-winning actress and author Angela Ray to not only discuss his artwork displayed in the exhibit but to also explain his life and the journey that led him to be where he is today. 

Hailing from Pocomoke City, Maryland, Collier is the youngest of six children. He says he first discovered art at the age of 15. Heavily attracted by the various types of paint and vivid colors, he instantly fell in love. Upon graduating from high school, he received many scholarships for his athletic skills but decided to follow his dream and passion for art. 

“I didn’t know any artist but I knew this thing had grabbed me and I’ve been chasing it ever since,” Collier said. 

Collier attended Pratt Institute from 1985-1989, which is one of the leading art schools in the nation. However, it was not until after he graduated from Pratt that he discovered his passion for illustrating children’s books. 

“After I graduated from college in 1989, I went into this bookstore and I looked around and I did not see any picture books with people of color,” Collier said. “That’s when I had my first idea of making a book.”

Collier published his first children’s book, Uptown in 2000 after working on it for over seven years. The book told the story of his life living on the streets of Harlem. He wanted to change the narrative of children’s books by including Black and brown characters and stories. 

Some of his other children’s books include Hey Black Child, Rosa, Visiting Langston, Trombone Shorty. One of his most recent illustrated works is featured in All Because You Matter, written by Tami Charles. Published in October 2020, the book is about encouraging young Black and Brown boys that they matter despite the social and racial injustices they may face.

The artwork displayed in the Rosa: The Works of Bryan Collier virtual exhibit was gifted to the university by Arthur Primas, an art collector from Texas. Primas believed that the pieces would provide the students and community members of N.C. A&T cultural exposure. Each of Collier’s pieces in the gallery has its own uniqueness that tells a piece of history. 

The use of vibrant and bold watercolors in Collier’s illustrations gives each image a photographic-like nature. The intricate details of hands, backgrounds and facial expressions allow the audience to connect with each piece as if they are living in that moment of history. 

“I love the pieces because they transcend art,” Paul Baker, the director of University Galleries said. “Even the work of a children’s book illustrator can touch so many different students on campus.”

The gallery is located in the historic Dudley building on the campus of N.C. A&T and is free and open to the public.

The hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment only on Saturdays. To learn more about the virtual exhibit, please visit the N.C. A&T University Gallery website