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


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."
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