Beginning at 6:30pm on Friday, August 30th, the Spa City Blues Society of Hot Springs, Arkansas, will host a private reception for the 17th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival artist George Hunt at The Blue Moon Art Gallery. This FREE event is for all volunteers, sponsors, and Spa City Blues Society members only. There will be Beer, Wine, and Hors d’oeuvres on hand for attendees to enjoy. During the reception, there will be the original piece of art from the 17th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival available for $2,500. There will also be 10 limited-edition signed prints for $300 each. George Hunt will be signing posters for those interested. During the event, members from the Spa City Blues Society will be on-hand selling t-shirts and posters.
ABOUT ARTIST GEORGE HUNT
Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, George Hunt quickly became known for his vibrant colors and textures contained within his artwork. Considered one of the “most important African-American artists in the South”, each piece of artwork painted by Hunt creates a moving and inspirational story behind the picture. In 1997, Hunt was commissioned to create an original piece commemorating the 40th anniversary of the “Little Rock Nine” at Central High School in Arkansas. For four years, during former President Bill Clinton’s reign in office, the painting was displayed in the conference room of The White House. In 2005, the United States Postal Service chose a 1997 civil-rights based painting created by Hunt to become a postage stamp for their “To Form A More Perfect Nation” series.
George Hunt’s artwork has been a huge influence within the Blues community as well. In 1996, he was commissioned to paint 24 portraits for Blues & Legends Hall of Fame Museum in Robinsville, Mississippi. Hunt’s artwork has also been seen at The Chicago Blues Festival, the Telluride Blues Festival, the Ultimate Rhythm & Blues Cruise, and the Arkansas Blues Festival to name a few.
ABOUT “WASHBOARD ERNIE”
“The people you touch are your real legacy. You’re not defined by what you take from this world, because the fact is you won’t take anything with you. You’re defined by what you leave behind, by what you give to this world, by how you impact other people. It’s been said there’s only two ways to live: You can either love things and use people or you can love people and use things. I’ve made my choice. I’m gonna love people and use things.”- “Everything Burns (Intro)” off of 2011 album Everything Burns by Shirock
The official painting created by George Hunt for the 17th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival narrates a true and personal story of both the artist and the character contained within the art piece. In 1994, during Memphis, Tennessee’s “Memphis in May” event, “Washboard Ernie” Cleveland and his wife Faith met George Hunt. “Ernie knew that Mr. Hunt had grown up in Hot Springs so he wanted to go by the Gallery on Beale Street to buy each of us a poster and to have Mr. Hunt sign the poster,” Faith Cleveland recalls.
“Washboard Ernie” was a fixture within the local Hot Springs, Arkansas community, playing alongside several bands and musicians while making life-long friends along the way. In 2004, for approximately eight weeks, Ernie traveled to Europe with Mary Fly and Gates MaGoo. During the visit, they first visited Amsterdam, traveling throughout Germany, France, and Switzerland. Faith Cleveland recalls, “I remember telling him that one guy in a crowd of folks on the street said he was a ‘Washboard Superstar’ which tickled him pink.” Cleveland continues, “After that, he always said he wanted to be a ‘Washboard Superstar’ in the U.S.”
During his time as a musical artist, “Washboard Ernie” enjoyed performing alongside various musicians and bands. Some of those acts included Heavy Suga & The SweeTones and Dayton Waters. Cleveland states, “I can tell you that the happiest I ever saw Ernie was when he was on stage with Dayton Waters, playing his ass off. He loved it so much.” “Washboard Ernie” frequented several local clubs around the area including The Ohio Club and The Big Chill. During his tenure at The Big Chill, Ernie became friends with owner Gina Parks, Sound Technician David Aldridge, along with the staff at the popular live music venue.
When “Washboard Ernie” would walk into the club, the room would light up due to his positive vibes and smiling face. Spa City Blues Society President David Hughes recognizes a stand-out feature of “Washboard Ernie” which is captured within the art piece. “The eyes. Ernie always had kind eyes. And they smiled when he smiled.” Susan Williams, a frequent attendee of many Blues-related events around Hot Springs states the hands of “Washboard Ernie” stood out the most in the 17th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival official artwork, “The hands show how gentle a man he really was.”
While attending a previous Hot Springs Blues Festival after-party at The Big Chill, “Washboard Ernie” would first become introduced to Alabama natives and Blues band 2Blu & The Lucky Stiffs. Faith Cleveland recalls, “Ernie completely bonded with these guys. Ernie and Dave Gowens were long-lost brothers. He idolized how Dave played percussion.” Dave Gowens chimes in stating, “We bonded the moment we met and that never changed.” Gowens and Vocalist/Harmonica player Bruce Andrews felt as though Hunt’s art piece captured “Washboard Ernie” in the color spectrum. Andrews states, “Ernie had to be one of the most colorful characters on the planet.” Andrews continues:
“I remember his surprise appearance at a major festival in Alabama where Ernie joined us on the main stage. There, nobody knew who he was, but EVERYBODY wanted to meet him. Ernie went through the crowd after our set in his bright red shirt with his freakin’ huge smile and sold our CDs..they wanted his autograph, not ours.”
Gowens proudly claims, “While he is missed every day, there is a little bit of Ernie in all of us that had the honor of meeting and knowing him.”
For more information about the 17th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival and the official art piece being sold of “Washboard Ernie”, please visit http://www.spacityblues.org