“Something that we’ve seen a lot in Kilgore is there’s a real nurturing of artists.”
It’s something Kilgore Community Relations Manager Sonya Waters wants to continue and to increase, something she emphasized Thursday night during the opening of the seventh annual KilGogh Arts Festival downtown.
The ‘East Texas Arts Experience’ continues tonight at $25 per person and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow in the Texan Theater and Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation’s History & Arts Center in the old post office on South Kilgore Street.
“The majority of the artists here are from Kilgore,” Waters said, “and we always get such positive feedback from the people who live in Kilgore and support the event year after year.
“It really shows there is a significant importance on the art experience here in Kilgore.”
Francye Phillips is one of the festival’s die-hard supporters alongside another annual attendee, India Rader Stroupe. Dan Phillips joined them gladly for this week’s activities, taking in the variety of pieces from 14 participating artists in the Texan Theater as well as a vast collection of student artwork spread between both venues.
“I think it’s wonderful, and I wouldn’t miss it,” Francye Phillips said. “I just love it. I couldn’t wait to get here.
“I’ve purchased something – or somethings – every year that I’ve been here. They’re also such wonderful memories.”
Thursday’s “exclusive preview” got the three-day event off to a great start, Waters said.
“We received really positive feedback from everybody that attended,” Waters said. “People were very impressed with the artists and their works; they were very impressed with the food.”
Opening night included a diverse menu in the old post office catered by Simply Southern Catering and Kilgore’s Kitchen alongside an array of colorful sushi from Brookshire’s Yummi Sushi as well as desserts by Table 27. In the Texan, Anna Reno of Harley’s brought handpicked wines to pair with Scardello Artisanal Cheeses brought in Mayor Ronnie Spradlin in what’s become a KilGogh tradition.
Tonight puts Kilgore College’s Culinary Arts program in the spotlight again, another KilGogh tradition as students compete for guests votes in Sweet and Savory categories. The evening’s libations featured three visiting wineries: Los Pinos, White Fox and Naca Valley Vineyard.
In addition to the art on display Saturday with free admission to the theater, there will be two art workshops, $15 each, with Spring DIY Décor set for 10:30 a.m. and Watercolor Painting with Paige Woodfin at 11:45 a.m. Spaces are still available, Waters noted, available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Once again, the KilGogh Arts Festival asked its participating artists to submit themed pieces for jurors’ consideration, aiming to become the Featured Artist for 2020. This year, Longview painter Sharon Grimes is in the spotlight after winning the 2018 competition.
“We very much appreciate having high-caliber judges in O. Rufus Lovett and Tiffany Jahorek,” Waters added.
After reviewing dozens of pieces submitted by students from Kilgore, Sabine and Longview High School, the pair selected Sabine High Schooler Cameron Stewart’s work “Crack in the Sidewalk” for the best use of 2019’s “Gogh Big or Go Home” theme. Longview High School student Jesse Gonzalez earned best overall with the sculpture “Hibernation.”
Among the professional artists, it was a difficult choice, the judges agreed, taking pains to narrow their favorites down to one selection.
“There were several things that we really loved,” Lovett said.
Ultimately, the two selected KilGogh veteran Jeff Hull for his sculpture, “Moon Over KilGogh.” The Longview High School art instructor has exhibited at KilGogh every year since the festival began in 2013 and has won the Featured Artist spot twice, now three times.
Some pieces are a struggle, Hull said, but “This piece came together. Bonnie said, ‘Can we make it move?’ Then you just think, how are you going to do it?”
The winning piece is topped by a spinning, orange crescent moon over a tall blue frame with a burst of rotating cloud, inspired by van Gogh’s works, at the center.
“I can call myself the consultant,” Hull’s wife, Bonnie, quipped Thursday. “This time of year, sometimes I call his art ‘the other woman,’” she added with a laugh.
The Gogh Big or Go Home theme is evident in the structure of this year’s event, adding Thursday’s night’s “exclusive preview” to Friday’s traditional Art & Wine Exhibition and Saturday’s open-to-the-public exhibition from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We just really think having the two nights of the festival really provides a lot of opportunity for the artists to meet with potential buyers and also to network amongst each other,” Waters said. “You really see that with our artists – the camaraderie.”
Meanwhile, the kid-oriented activities of the ‘East Texas Arts Experience’ have been expanded as well and rescheduled for summer.
Growth’s ahead for 2020 as well, Waters added.
“We have plenty of space over in the old post office, so something we would really like to achieve next year is to increase the number of artists we’re able to accept.”