Vermont Arts Council

Going in the Back Door: An Artist’s Inspiration

Susan Kelley Harkey, an artist and photographer from Coventry, attended the Vermont Arts Council’s 2013 Arts Summit. She was deeply affected by the keynote address by Eric Booth, who brought the theme of the summit—Connect, Animate, Lead—to life. Booth’s talk included the concept of “going in the back door.” The talk inspired Harkey to do just that, and the result was a wonderful collaboration. This is her story.
The Inspiration
I had been taking photographs over the years of farms and farm animals. My youngest child recently went off to college which gave me time to do some large paintings from the photographs. In the past I have worked full time as a freelance illustrator and have done paintings and illustrations for commercial clients. By being involved in my daughter’s activities and in fundraising in my community, I worked on a great number of projects using my drawing and painting skills pro bono.

Finding “The Back Door”
The Tasting Center in Newport, Vermont, which is under the umbrella of Eden Ice Cider, has restored a large old building and was in need of some embellishment for the walls. This Center supports the Vermont Farm to Table movement. As it has just recently opened, money for such a project was not available. When I walked in the space, I felt that my paintings would work well as they are large. The timing was good as I had already started working on the paintings. I worked up a visualization putting my art work in the space and presented it to one of the owners. He sent me to Eleanor Leger (who with her husband is founder of Eden Ice Cider). I was pleased when they decided my paintings and photographs would work there as they support the whole local farm to table movement that they are promoting. Eleanor suggested I put together a collage of some of my photography which would be made into a 7’ by 28’ mural.

Making the Connection
I chose to use for the mural some of the photos that I had reserved for paintings as they needed the mural right away. It is a rough time to start a business; this seemed like a wonderful way to help in my community, and I would be part of positive growth. I will not be paid for this work, but my art is on display, and I have been given an area to put up information about myself. I loved doing the paintings, and I love that my work is being put to good use for my friends and neighbors. The paintings and the copyrights on the photograph are owned by me.

Closing the Circle
I am pleased to leave my work on The Tasting Center walls until another artist steps in. Newport is in the midst of redevelopment. I think my work looks great in the space and adds a special energy that was not there before.  It is my goal to generate some income, and I believe this may lead to some nice exposure for me in the spring. Even if not, it feels good to have my work on display.