An Interview with Keri King, For Art’s Sake’s Featured Artist

Keri King working on a muralOn Saturday, March 9, Blackstone Valley Prep will host our 6th Annual For Art’s Sake: A Scholar Art Show & Artisan Fair in celebration of Youth Art Month. For Art’s Sake is free, open to the public, and will feature art from scholars across the network, “creation stations” for children of all ages, more than a dozen artisan vendors selling artwork and handcrafted creations, and workshops led by featured artist Keri King, a Providence-based artist specializing in public art, illustration, and theater design. We recently sat down with Keri to learn more about her craft, favorite projects, and the workshops she’ll be leading at For Art’s Sake.

 

How would you describe your art to someone who has never seen it?

I think it’s tricky to describe one’s own art, don’t you? I’ve been working on many different kinds of projects lately — murals, t-shirt designs, stage sets — so I’m always trying out new materials and tools, and finding inspiration in new places. As a result, my work seems to be changing all of the time! That said, bright color, humor, and old children’s books are a few of my favorite things, and I would say this all comes out in a lot of my art.

 

A few years ago you had the opportunity to create a multi-site art installation for PVDFest. What did you create and how was the experience?

In 2016, I created a series of temporary paper murals, designed to celebrate performers and audiences. I printed human-sized versions of my illustrated characters (an alligator in a top hat walking to the theater, for example) and the city gave me permission to install them all over downtown Providence using biodegradable paste. During the festival, it looked like ballerina horses were dancing down alleyways and trapeze artist birds were flying across buildings. It was thrilling! I felt very connected to my city and neighbors, and so grateful for the opportunity.

Photography by Erin X. Smithers

Similarly, tell us more about the series of murals you installed for Pawtucket’s annual arts festival.

Sure! These pieces were also temporary paper murals and pretty exciting to create. I’m not a resident of Pawtucket, though, so I started work on this series at the Pawtucket Public Library to learn more about the area. There, I discovered some interesting characters in Blackstone Valley’s history… Have you ever heard of Fanny the Elephant? Apparently, she was purchased from Barnum & Bailey circus in the 1950s and she lived in Slater Park Zoo for over 30 years! She ended up featured in one of my murals.

Photography by Erin X. Smithers

Do you have a favorite mural or piece of art you’ve created? Something you’re particular proud of?

Well, in addition to making art, I teach art to grades K-8 at the Wolf School in East Providence, and my students keep surprising me with the way they are growing as artists: how brave they are when they make creative choices, how hard they work, and the way they smile and share stories with their studiomates while they’re making art. Lately, I feel particularly proud of being able to share the creative process with students.

 

What first sparked your interest in art?

I grew up an only child. My mom was a single parent and owned her own business so she worked a lot. From an early age, I started finding ways to occupy myself, and I loved to build imaginary worlds. I would fill sketchbooks with them… sculpt miniature versions of animals and props I saw in movies… I would write adventure stories. I was a pretty shy kid, but when I expressed myself through artwork and, on brave occasions, shared my creations with others, that’s when I felt most confident and connected to the world.

 

What are you most looking forward to about being the featured artist at For Art’s Sake? Tell us about the workshops you’ll be leading.

Most of all, I cannot wait to meet the scholars of BVP and see their artwork! I am also super looking forward to our workshops together. Each participant will design their own small-scale circus act, sculpting it out of mixed media. Towards the end of the workshop, each participant will have the opportunity to perform their circus character for friends and family!

 

To learn more about Keri and her artwork, please visit her website.

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