Esther Bryan (nee Gadzik)
Artist. Pianist. Teacher. Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Volunteer.
Born in Dijon, France to missionary parents, Esther spent her childhood among different cultures. Her father was a Slovak refugee, her mother, an American of Scottish-German heritage.
Married in 1971 to musician Gary Bryan, the couple settled in Williamstown. They raised two daughters and a son, and now enjoy the role of proud grandparents as well. Esther earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Montreal’s Concordia University and has been working as both artist and pianist for the past 40 years.
Esther is a fellow of the Ottawa Watercolour Society and member of Christians in the Visual Arts International. Best known for her painting, drawing, and fibre arts, she has one of her pieces in the permanent collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Her art has been presented in numerous group and juried shows, and in solo exhibitions in Canada and the United States. She has received many awards and honours over the years, including the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003 and the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal in 2016, recognizing her work for the Quilt of Belonging project.
In 1994, Esther accompanied her father to Slovakia, the homeland he had not seen in 43 years. This life-changing journey fostered Esther’s dream to make the Quilt of Belonging. Since the Quilt project began in October 1998, Esther’s ‘home away from home’ has been the project’s Williamstown headquarters overlooking the Raisin River.
Guided by her faith, and a strong sense of family and community values, her boundless energy has mobilized thousands of volunteers to take part in an incredible journey – an invitation for all cultures to celebrate their common humanity and find their unique place in the Canadian mosaic.
After a short battle with cancer, Esther passed away on July 30, 2022. She will be remembered whenever we see or hear about the Quilt of Belonging. Her legacy lives on.