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.