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January 28. 2013 1:22AM

Jim Burke left for awhile but returned to make the state a more artistic place


Jim Burke, 39

Home: Manchester

Birthplace: Manchester

Family: My wife is Suzanne Burke, and our two daughters are Ella, 6, and Nora, 3.

High school: Manchester Central High School

College/post-grad degrees:

Syracuse University, BFA, University of Hartford, MFA

Current job: Chairman of the Illustration Department, New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA), illustrator and art director

Key past positions held: Faculty member of Pratt Institute (Brooklyn and New York City); visiting artist at Syracuse University. I have been a professional artist since 1996.

Volunteer activities: Our NHIA community actively collaborates with numerous nonprofit organizations. These projects and events provide professional working experiences for the students as well as promotional and financial opportunities for both students and the organizations. Collaborative projects have included Easter Seals, Manchester Intown, CASA and the Palace Theatre.

Most admired person (outside your family): Tom Clow was my fifthgrade teacher at Webster School. Throughout the year he had placed a very heavy emphasis on students writing and illustrating their own stories. At the time, they were the most creative exercises that I had ever experienced in school. He was also one of the most supportive teachers that I had ever had. I aspire to have a similar influence on my students.

Key current professional challenge: The strength of the programs at NHIA has attracted students from over 20 states, we have a deep connection in many parts of our community, and there are remarkable offerings for everyone at NHIA – at all levels, yet many in New Hampshire remain unaware of this Granite State gem. How can we increase local awareness of the energy, enthusiasm and education on our campus is a challenge we welcome.

Last major achievement: My ninth illustrated book “When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders” (Chronicle Books) written by the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis has just been published. It just received “Starred” reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. I’ve also just received a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators Museum of American Illustration, my eighth medal for art direction.

Biggest problem facing New Hampshire: Critical economic and social challenges like jobs and health care costs are and should be at the forefront for families and leaders across our state. When thinking about solutions, I hope we don’t lose sight of the importance of inspiring future generations to achieve excellence in the classroom – in whatever subject motivates them. What Dean Kamen – whose father was an illustrator I was lucky to know – has done for science and technology through his FIRST organization is a great example of New Hampshire leadership in this regard.

MANCHESTER - Jim Burke left New Hampshire in 1992. Like many natives, he was determined to make his mark outside of a world bounded by the Connecticut River, Massachusetts, and the Atlantic Ocean.

He received fine-arts degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Hartford. He taught at Syracuse and the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He illustrated books of poetry and Americana-related subjects of baseball, jazz and the Statue of Liberty.

He lived in the mecca of the art world, New York City.

Then in 2009, he returned to his hometown of Manchester. Burke, 39, is chairman of the Illustration Deaprtment at New Hampshire Institute of Art, a degree-granting arts college of about 500 students in downtown Manchester.

He said the caliber of the school drew him back to his hometown.

With his connections, he's lured illustrators such as Chris Van Allsburg, Yuko Shiuzu and Gary Kelley to speak at the college. And James Gurney, creator of Dinotopia, will give a lecture at the college next month.

Burke has worked to involve institute students in the community. A student has created the playbills for the Palace Theatre's 2013 Christmas shows. Students create the banners that hang downtown. And student artwork is auctioned off to benefit Easter Seals.

"It enriches our culture to have a strong presence of art, in whatever form," Burke said.

Up-and-coming cities such as Providence, Milwaukee and Kansas City all boast strong artistic communities, he said. The institute is helping to place Manchester among them.

"We have such an energizing and exciting atmosphere here around art. It is evolving our culture," he said.

Burke grew up bagging groceries at Bunny's Superette, the Manchester market that his family owned for years. He once won a Union Leader illustration contest.

"I've always wanted to raise my children here," Burke said, "I've always loved Manchester."

Nominations for Class of 2015

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