Blyth's Stevenson 'honoured' to produce 2019 Blyth Festival artwork - Oct. 18, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Blyth artist Kelly Stevenson has been chosen to provide both the season image and the production posters for next year’s season of the Blyth Festival.
Stevenson, who is still in her 20s, has been producing art for a number of years. Her first individual gallery show was produced at the Bainton Gallery through the Blyth Festival Art Gallery. She would then go on to curate several shows through the gallery as well.
While an accomplished artist in her own right, Stevenson admits that her style of art, working with fine-tipped pens to create mostly black-and-white drawings, isn’t the Festival’s traditional fare when it comes to its posters. With established, traditional artists like Greg Sherwood, Ron Walker and Randy Jones, as well as photographer Terry Manzo, working on season images and production posters in recent years, Stevenson said she was surprised when she was approached, but also extremely honoured.
However, Stevenson’s work has been included often at the Blyth Festival Art Gallery’s community show and she has been awarded through the Huron County Art Show and Sale as well.
Artistic Director Gil Garratt first approached Stevenson about the project in the summer, e-mailing “out of the blue” and asking if she would be interested.
Stevenson said her art has been very personal in recent years, not to mention black and white, so being commissioned for a series of images that would have to be in colour represented a number of changes to the way she normally works.
While it would be different, Stevenson said that didn’t dissuade her and she was immediately intrigued. She accepted and began crafting some ideas right away, although the season’s productions had yet to be approved by the Festival’s board of directors.
Garratt said that the Festival couldn’t find a more local artist than Stevenson, who curated a show this season for his wife, Gemma James Smith through the Blyth Festival Art Gallery.
He said that she has a quickly-emerging signature style that greatly intrigues him. Her art, he said, is playful, but with a hint of mystery to it. The style is very clear and it has a simplicity to it that attracted him.
Garratt said it was Stevenson’s work on a calendar last year, which featured landscape images, many of them including barns, that really made him think that Stevenson would be a good fit for this season’s Festival images.
The season image, which will be revealed tonight at the Festival’s annual fundraising dinner and auction, will feature all three parts of the newly-renovated Blyth Centre for the Arts building, including Memorial Hall, the link (which contains the Bainton Art Gallery) and the administration offices. While season images have traditionally featured the hall itself, Stevenson said she felt it was important to include all three parts of the hall, including the “link” and art gallery, as well as the administration offices. While in past years they were considered three different parts of the building put together, after the extensive renovations, she feels it is very much one building on its own.
She also produced the image in colour and was meticulous about getting all of the building’s detail and nuances just right.
As for the production images, she is due to hand those in by the end of the year and they will then be revealed later in 2019.
Thanks not only to her history of showing art at the Blyth Festival Art Gallery but also her family’s long-time involvement with the Festival, Stevenson said it is a true honour to join the list of artists who have contributed their art to season images and production posters.
She says that the season image only took her about three or four days to complete, but that came after a lengthy period of thinking and conceptualizing the piece in her mind before physically getting to work. Stevenson said this has always been her process, not just with this new commission.
Stevenson also said that, because of the way she draws, the season image is a lot smaller than the images that have traditionally been used by the Festival.
Her work with the Blyth Festival will help her to reach audiences that Stevenson feels she may never have reached on her own. On one hand, she said, that’s exciting, but it also makes her nervous at the same time.
While she feels under pressure, she’s also excited about the possibilities afforded to her by the opportunity.
Stevenson’s season image will be revealed at tonight’s Festival event at the Blyth and District Community Centre and her production posters will be revealed early next year.
For more information on the Blyth Festival, visit its website at blythfestival.com.