A Day at the Park

After parking only about fifty yards from the front gate, my class and I were walking to the gates to pay our ten dollars to get into the Kentuck Festival of the Arts. We passed police officers on their motorcycles and got into line. Under a white tent, a lady at a table gave us each a red ticket, which we then gave to a volunteer, who gave us each pamphlet that told us about artists, where they were, what they were selling, and what type of art they had.

Miz Thang

In her white tent, Miz Thang was surrounded by vibrant paintings showing deformed- and older-looking people on canvas.

Why do you come to Kentuck?

In the early ’90s one of her friends took some of her paintings to a gallery in Georgia, where the owner bought them and told her about art festivals that they should look into attending. Miz Thang has been attending Kentuck since 1998. She said that she comes because it is like a family, and that a lot of her friends also come to Kentuck, that the festival is like a big family.

Where do you get the inspiration for your work?

It changes, she said, but when she does find something she likes, she researches that topic or style.

When did you start painting?

She has been doing this type since the early 1990s, but has always been painting.

How did you get into folk art?

Miz Thang is an untrained artist – “that is where I fit” – she was making things but did not do art shows. When I asked how many she attends today: “at the most twenty, at the least twelve.”

Jerry Hymel

After we left Miz Thang, my buddy Sam and I went to speak to Jerry Hymel in his tent, where we saw breathtaking stained-glass mosaics.

Why do you come to Kentuck?

It’s a great show, he told me. The people treat you right, and the people come buy art.

How do you get the perfect shape for the glass?

His answer was simple: he cuts it and shapes it to the size and shape that he wants.

How did you get into glass making?

A tree landed on him! After being paralyzed, Hymel was not able to teach. He took a class at a local college and has been making glass mosaics for about 30 years now.

Kevin Harrington

When I walked a cluster of some trees, Kevin Harrington’s beautiful handmade works of wood looked like glossy cherry wood.

Harrington said that he comes to Kentuck for the camaraderie with his fellow artists. “They are great artists,” he began, then added,”It’s close to where I live, and it’s fun.”

Where do you get the inspiration for your works?

He gets his inspiration from nature, art movements, geometry, the past, and the future.

How long have you been doing woodwork?

About 20 years, he told me.

Where has your work been displayed?

Hymel has shown his work in New York City, the swamps of Mississippi, and the ghettos of Memphis, Tennessee.

Greg Rhoads

I was walking down the gravel path when my mom stopped me and told me to go talk to Greg Rhoads.

Why do you come to Kentuck?

Rhoads told me that other artists had recommend the festival to him. 

How did you get into mosaics?

His wife took a class at a local college, and he began to make mosaics, too.

As my mom and I continued talking to him, we found that he knows some of my family out in Kansas!

How long does it take you to make your work?

If he is focused on his work, it can take as little as three days to complete one piece However, if it is a big work of art, it can take up to two weeks.

Greg Rhoads was my favorite artist to talk to, because we had something in common. Even though he is much older than me, our parents grew up on farms, and he and my mom are from the same city. (I also grew up on my grandfather’s farm – though not in Kansas – in Morris, Alabama.) I was so glad that I stopped to talk to him!