Saturday. The day that every teenager in the world looks forward to. After an exhausting, neverending week of unpleasant school lunches, over-complicated tests, dull lectures, homework that sometimes doesn’t get graded, and worst of all . . . over-stressing, yanking each strand of hair from our heads because we feel like we’ll never succeed—there are Saturdays, the only day when we can nestle in our soft, consoling beds without having to reluctantly and hesitantly wake up to the constant, obnoxious, ear-throttling, buzzing reminder that we can’t remain in tranquility forever. However, not this Saturday, October 17. I had to reluctantly and hesitantly get out of my soft, consoling bed and wake up to a constant, obnoxious, ear-throttling, buzzing reminder that I couldn’t remain in tranquility forever. Only this time, I wasn’t heading to school.
In the midst of the autumn morning chill, I along with some of my Creative Writing classmates were in Northport, Alabama to witness the 2015 Kentuck Festival of the Arts, sponsored by the Kentuck Art Center since 1971 and held at Kentuck Park. Artists come to the festival from all around the United States to showcase their artwork: two-dimensional art, metal, jewelry, fiber, glass, clay/pottery, musical instruments, sculpture, photography, printmaking, wood, and natural materials. Along with the various art displays, the festival also offers of musical performances from deep and diverse sources of Southern culture: bluegrass, Delta blues, a jug band, southern rock, and Americana. Readings and performances were also given by Joyce Cauthen, Steven H. Hobbs, Jennifer Horne, Jeanie Thompson, Theatre Tuscaloosa, and the University of Alabama’s Department of Theatre and Dance. The storytelling done by Steven H. Hobbs was very comedic with most of his stories centering around his childhood experiences growing up in the South. Admission into the festival costs ten dollars but the experience is priceless. (Two years ago, when we attended Kentuck, I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience as much as I did this time around.)
When I entered the festival, little did I know that I would leave the festival so mesmerized. What is so great about Kentuck? Every time I turned my head, I noticed something so intricate and distinctive, and it made me wish I had made it myself. At Kentuck, no two things are alike. Every artwork that I saw left me with some type of nostalgia— and that is how art should be. Some of my classmates and I walked around the festival for a bit to just get a feel of it and reminisce about our last time at the festival two years ago. It was hard staying together because we were a part of a crowd who was also eager to lay their eyes on something they have never seen before and something they may never see again.
The first artists that we saw were Photography students from our school, Booker T. Washington Magnet High School. The photos were so dynamic, and if I had had the money, I would have bought some of their work in a heartbeat. It is very humbling that I attend school with these students who created these very vivid and unique depictions of the various aspects of life. After we finished socializing with the Photography students, we proceeded in roaming around the festival to see what other kinds of artwork our eyes could be astonished by. Soon enough, the unbearably bone-chilling weather started to dwindle, and we felt the need to do-away with our jackets and sweatshirts. One of the first things that caught my eye as I entered the festival was a very well-structured teepee that made me wonder what could possibly be inside. I was skeptical about entering the teepee – I decided not to, in the end – because I was not aware of what I might have gotten myself into.
My classmates and I then continued on our journey, and soon spotted more photography. We entered the booth of Jeff White from Huntsville, Alabama but his wife Julie sat in his place. Not only does he do the mainstream and social photography, such as family portraits and special events, but he also has a collection of urban-life photography in places around the country. Looking at his realistic photographs made me feel like I was there. His wife said that the smallest things in a setting capture him. For instance, he has a picture of a house with long green doors and a cigarette box in front of the doors. He took that picture not because of the long and eye-catching green doors but because the cigarette box was sitting on the ground. His use of printing these photographs on wood makes his images acquire so much more livelihood. It is very unfortunate that Jeff White wasn’t there because I would have really liked hearing his perspectives.
As we left White’s booth, I saw something very peculiar in my periphery. When I turned around, I was a bit frightened because these bunnies made out of wire looked bigger than me! I didn’t know who the artist was, but whoever it was, I applaud him for his creation.
We all then decided to rest our legs and sit down in empty rocking chairs. We rocked and rocked and rocked, it was so relaxing we really didn’t want to get up. Eventually, we did and continued with our stroll.
One of my classmates entered a tent with two-dimensional art, though I didn’t realize what exactly it was. In the tent were various canvases with words going across them. Those words are the words of people from all around and the issues that they are dealing with. Lauren Sparks, the artist, has people send her emails and letters of what they are going through and she brings it to life and it art. At the festival, she had a bulletin board for people who wanted to put their internal issues and inadequacies on the board. We all took part in this and when we left the tent we felt somewhat emotionally released.
Time was passing, and so we then sought out the artwork of mixed-media artist Leroy Campbell from College Park, Georgia. This artist captivated us all. Not just his artwork, but his character. Campbell is self-taught which is very remarkable and also unbelievable just by looking at his work. He has been painting for thirty-one years and he started out with flat one-dimensional art. He takes pride that he is constantly evolving and expressed that evolution is such a great thing.
Campbell is very passionate about his work and told us, “In your passion, you find purpose. When you find something that you love to do, you are living in the present. And the present that you’re living in helps get you to your future.”
Most of his art are images and depictions of African American heritage/culture.I asked him why he paints his African American silhouettes without any eyes.
He said, “Because I found out a long time ago, that you can get to a person’s soul by the story they tell. It doesn’t always have to be their eyes. You can see more being said without the eyes. You can place your own face there.”
We stayed in his booth longer than we did the others and just admired his creations. The last thing he said to us really made us think.
When those words loosely rolled off his tongue we were all stunned. He was telling us that money is not the center to everything and it’s not all that we should strive for in life.
When we left the booth, we were all famished and before we knew it, the time to bid farewell to the Kentuck Festival of the Arts was upon us. I honestly did not want to leave because I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We all got in our designated vehicles and traveled back to the place that all of us hold dear. That Saturday in October wasn’t like most— it was better.