What: ArtFest Student Exhibit

Where: Juanita and Ralph Harvey Foyer Gallery at Midwestern State University

When: June and July during regular summer gallery hours, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday

Admission: Free

Info: (940) 397-4369.

The fourth ArtFest visual camp concludes today with an exhibition of high school artwork in the Juanita and Ralph Harvey Foyer Gallery at Midwestern State University. The art will be on display during regular summer hours, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday in June and July.

There will be an opening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. tonight at the MSU gallery and everyone is welcome to attend.

“The idea is to bring in a visiting artist, who students can meet and see that artist’s creative process as they start something and how they finish it,” said B.C. Gilbert, ArtFest director and art teacher at Rider High School.

Twenty-eight students attended the two week event sponsored by the West Foundation. They studied with MSU art professors Cat Prose and Suguru Hiraedi and high school art teachers Jesse Baggett, Nancy Kisnis, Tommy Edwards and Carol Rose. 

Eligible students include anyone from the Wichita Falls school district ranging in age from just having completed 8th grade to just having graduated high school and entering university. 

The featured visual artist is Kevin Cole who lives near Atlanta. Cole taught in the Fulton County School System for 30 years, before taking a two-year leave of absence to do a 15 story mural for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

He is a full-time artist working on public and private commissions – having just completed a 20 by 55 foot aluminum piece for an airport in Atlanta. Cole also does residencies such as the one he’s completing at MSU.

Born in Pine Bluff, Ark., in high school Cole wanted to be a welder and bricklayer. But with 11 scholarship offers, his father talked him into attending college for at least one year. By the time he was a sophomore, his professors wanted Cole to go to graduate school for a master’s.

“They talked me into going to teach art, but I didn’t want to teach,” he said. He completed a masters in Art Education and an MFA in Fine Arts and Drawing. Cole’s reluctance to teach was gone by the time he saw “students walking into a class and the looks on their faces when they say I did this.”

That said, his students turned out to be more than artists. “I was on my way to Philadelphia in 2009 and they told me the pilot wants to see you. ‘Ok,’ I said, ‘I will be quiet.’ The pilot turned out to be one of my former students. He said to me, ‘it came from doing one point perspective in my class. It taught me how to land the plane and I teach other pilots how to land planes.’ Then he said, ‘Thank you.’”

 After Cole arrived in Wichita Falls, he spoke to the young art students about the concepts behind his work. “I always say my work is about five different issues,” he said.

There’s the story his 91-year-old grandfather told him one weekend when the 19-year-old was visiting him. I didn’t see the need in voting, and he asked me if I had registered. He kneeled down and drew me a map with his cane. I followed the map and it was the tree where African Americans had once been lynched by their neckties when they went to vote.

That fateful 9-11 is also important to Cole, because he was supposed to be in New York City.

“I decided not to go the last minute, but my friend did and was stuck there for a couple of weeks. He sent me a picture of a boy holding a piece of tar paper and aluminum, and I started working on tar paper and aluminum as his protest against Sept. 11.”

Hurricane Katrina is also significant to Cole. “I had a lot of friends who lived there and I did a whole series of works “Fragments of Frozen Sound” where I picked up debris and started casting things out of bronze.”

Music is critical to Cole, as his grandmother once owned a blues club in Arkansas, and he said that she gave B.B. King his start. Spend 15 minutes in his studio, and the music he’s playing, ranging from blues to gospel, is energetic and felt.

The fifth criteria is the relationships he develops with people he meets while creating art, including people he meets in airports, as well as students, artists, collectors and professors.

Before Cole travelled to Wichita Falls, he was working on a series titled “Stuck in the Middle.” “It’s based on who do you vote for, Hillary or Trump”? There are no necktie or scarf shapes like my previous work. You have knobs like voting ballots. The work is a dichotomy, but it’s not obvious which is what.”

Cole said when he arrived in Wichita Falls, “I wanted to start over. For his present work that will be permanently hung in Wichita Falls, he said it will reflect the people he has met here and spoken with. “There are African patterns you will see. There is also a Caribbean population and I am adding that.” And there is a strong Hispanic population.

It’s a long way from finished, he said, but it will reflect those cultures. He also introduced mapping of the Wichita Falls area onto the mixed media piece such as a lake and silhouettes of the East side.

 

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