Everyone in his home town of Brandon, and perhaps the state of Vermont, knows that he's a jolly good fellow. And a highly successful folk artist who happens to be a tireless community booster and not-so-closeted contemporary painter.
I'm talking about Warren Kimble, of course, who just this afternoon earned the 2013 Governors Award for Excellence in the Arts, presented at the Vermont Arts Council's annual meeting and awards gala at the Statehouse.
According to the VAC, the Governors Award winner must:
* Currently reside in Vermont
* Have made a significant and sustained contribution to the advancement of an art form
* Are recognized for his/her contribution in an international, national or regional area
* Demonstrate a personal commitment to the development of cultural life in Vermont
* Demonstrate exemplary standards of professional integrity
While the choosing is obviously done by the governor, Shumlin was presented with options by the VAC, which had previously solicited the public statewide for nominations. "I don't know what they do once they get the recommendations from us," says VAC executive director Alex Aldrich, "but the governor went with the person I think he knew best.
"A lot of people in the universe know Warren as an artist who does these very folksy images, which have been placed on everything from sheets to wastebaskets," Aldrich continues, adding that he knows a very different side of Kimble — that of a contemporary, issues-driven painter.
Indeed, a retrospective exhibit at the Shelburne Museum five years ago led viewers through his iconic folksy paintings and artifacts, and then to a number of works from his "Widows of War" series that surprised nearly everyone. He followed that up in 2009 with a series titled "Let the Sun Shine," abstract paintings that reflect optimism for the future — a commodity in short supply in the world. They might as well have represent Kimble's typically cheery disposition.
Aldrich recalls a statement Kimble made about his contemporary work during a studio visit one time: "He was very funny. He said, 'Artists can choose to make a living doing any number of things. I was lucky enough to discover that I could paint something that makes me money, and then paint what I want.'"
Kimble served a couple of terms on the VAC board, during which time he came up with the popular statewide "Palettes of Vermont" project, in 2005-06. Aldrich recalls that Kimble had cajoled him and the board chair to "have more fun." Boring board meetings were apparently not his thing. "Palettes" is what Kimble came up with — a community-minded project that everyone of all ages could participate in. And thousands did.
Kimble's activism in Brandon is practically legendary; many would credit him with singlehandedly turning the place into an art destination. Kimble would acknowledge everyone else. The town continues to host a communitywide outdoor art installation every summer. Both Kimble and his wife, Lorraine, remain active in the Brandon Artists Guild, and he maintains a working studio in the town.