Every Monday afternoon, laughs and wise-cracks come from the art room at Stone Hill at Andover, a retirement facility on Elm Street.
A dedicated but small group is ready with paintbrushes to learn from one of their neighbors, Seymour “Sy” Barry, 93, who moved into the facility last October to be closer to family.
Barry shares his wealth of experience gained over nearly eight decades as a professional artist. His medium: cartoons.
Barry worked on [The Phantom] comic strip during its peak — although it is still running in newspapers today. The comic strip was printed in about 500 newspapers when he started and by the 1990s it was in more than 900 newspapers, he said. However, Barry didn’t realize the reach of the comic strips until after he retired.
On his first trip to Sydney, Australia, Barry was “overwhelmed by hundreds of fans waiting, circled around the convention hall,” he said.
Seymour Barry recalled one specific interaction where a fan pulled out a copy of the 1957 comic “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” which tells the story of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts that led to the desegregation of buses and elevated King’s profile. It was Barry’s work.
That same comic book would go on to inspire activists, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, according to The History Channel.
Teaching art allows Barry to learn new tricks — even at 93, he said. “I find it amazing I’m learning from my teaching because I have to find a way to transfer my information into words,” he said.