As we rolled into the familiar parking lot, I rejoiced at the smell of festival food and fresh paint. Although I did regret my choice of clothing when I realized how warm it was, I was happy to be back at Kentuck. Held in Northport, Alabama, this was the 45th Kentuck Festival of the Arts was on October 15, and it included more than 200 artists.
After walking in the front gates at 9:00 that morning, my friends Tatyana and Derrick and I began the hunt for the artists we would interview. We had no time to waste so we immediately headed to find Fred Conlon, who makes garden art, so Derrick could interview him. Conlon doesn’t make regular garden art— but scarily different garden art. (Derrick was even given a miniature piece of his art.) We gathered our things, and Derrick thanked Conlon for sharing his time. We all felt that it went exceptionally well and started to wander the festival to meet the next artist!
The next closest artist was a knife-maker, who Tatyana would interview: Jake Asuit. His set-up was full of different-colored and -shaped knifes, and people. We waited a moment for the shoppers to finish, then she began asking questions, to which he provided great answers.
One answer that caught my attention was that he made one of the knife handles out of mermaid bone, giraffe bone, mammoth tooth, and jasper. That by far has taken the cake for the most unique knife I have ever seen. It was like a something out of a movie to me— because, of course, I was eating the best fresh-popped kettle corn at the time. When we left Jake Asuit’s tent, we decided it was lunchtime.
So we headed to my favorite place at Kentuck: the food area. I wanted to try something different this year, and my taste buds were screaming at me to get the chicken on a stick. Tatyana, the vegetarian of our trio, ate homemade chips, and Derrick bought a burger, which oddly but satisfyingly had nacho cheese on it. We each enjoyed our food but had to scrape together six dollars and share a cup of lemonade . . . which I didn’t get any of, because the people I call my friends are stingy!
We had saved the best for last. After our lunch, we headed to meet the artist I was to interview: Peter Loose, who I call the chicken man. I gave him this name because, as we approached his tent, all we could see were vibrant paintings of chickens!
Loose started painting at a young age. “Around four or five years old, I started making really amazing things,” he said.
Once I started to interview him I had to ask why he painted chickens. He told me that the animals he paints are usually ones he has lived with. I found that interesting, especially when he said he had two giant tortoises from Africa and a snake. I couldn’t imagine living with a snake!
Peter Loose had the idea in 1984 to sell his art and has been making a living this way ever since. He uses a lot of wood in his art and is constantly working on something. (I aspire to have that diligence toward my job one day.) Other than paintings he also works with clay and metal, and he sews. Although he is multi-talented, painting is his passion, and I asked whether he sees himself doing this for the next five to ten years.
He replied, “Yeah I’m going to do this ’til I die! My granddaddy made art until he was an old, old man so I’m going to do like him.”
That’s when I knew I was talking with a true artist. When we ended our interview, he even spoke about my writing and encouraged me to pursue it as a career.
We felt so accomplished after finishing our interviews early, so we started roaming the festival. We soon stumbled upon William McGavin, a didgeridoo artist we had interviewed the previous year— and he remembered us! He told us he had seen the article and said how happy he was that we published it.
Soon, it was time for us to leave, but I didn’t really want to go. I felt like I didn’t see everything the festival had to offer, but I got into the car anyway
Kentuck was even more amazing for me the second time around. The artists never fail to impress me, and Kentuck will always be a memorable experience.