• Jeni Hansen

Bené & Ben

Last year, on her 99th birthday, artist Benjamin Ferry unveiled a portrait of Vanilla Beane he created after a chance meeting with my grandma. He has, to-date, created over 40 paintings of VPB and her hat shop, Bené Millinery. ⁠His story: ⁠ "Several years ago, the artist and teacher had just relocated to a new neighborhood in the District, Brightwood/Manor Park, and he enjoyed taking it in during his daily dog walks. "There was one neighborhood shop that had kind of a magical energy to it," he recalls. It was Bené Millinery, with its windows and walls confettied with handmade creations of all shapes and hues, bejeweled and feathered, ribboned and ruffled.⁠

⁠ Ferry finally worked up the courage to go inside and met the shop's then-97-year-old owner....[He] was captivated by her, her artistry, her story and history. "She's connected to three centuries of American history," he says. "Her story is a story of American history, of African American history, of D.C. history, of church history.""⁠ ⁠ Thank you to Holton-Arms School for this perspective on Ben & Bené: Full story here.

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