JONESBORO — Kevin Kresse, an Arkansas painter and sculptor chosen to design and create the statue of hall-of-fame musician Johnny Cash in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, will join the lineup of talent at the virtual 2021 Johnny Cash Heritage Festival. The festival is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 15-16.
Kresse, a native of Little Rock, will present a behind-the-scenes look at the sculpting process and a preview of the proposed statue’s progress that won him the competition.
“This is the biggest thing that has happened in my art career, to be able to have a sculpture by me of one of my heroes,” said Kresse. The Arkansas native said he loves the idea of sculpting people and has a particular fondness for creating musicians.
“Johnny Cash has a tricky face” Kresse added. “I started working on him when the project came up. Before, I was working on Levon Helm, an Arkansas singer and actor. I’ve also done Al Green, Glen Campbell and others from Arkansas.”
In 2019, the Arkansas Legislature voted to replace the two statues currently housed in National Statuary Hall. Kresse won the honor through a selection review committee to design and create the Cash figure. Artist Benjamin Victor of Boise, Idaho, was tabbed to craft the statue of civil rights icon Daisy Gatson Bates that will join Cash’s statue in the hall.
“During this process we have had the chance to meet some of the greatest sculptors and artists that our country has,” said Shane Broadway, ASU System vice president for university relations. “Each of them in their own right could do the statues of Johnny Cash and Daisy Bates, but we can only have one do each. Kevin Kresse came into our interview with his maquette of Johnny Cash and made most likely the greatest presentation I’ve witnessed.
“His passion for Johnny Cash and Arkansas and celebrating an artist known around the world was unmatched. His talent, I already knew from previous experience, but when he unveiled his maquette of Johnny Cash you had no doubt who it was and that is very, very important.”
Kresse has been awarded painting fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts – Mid-America Arts Alliance and the Arkansas Arts Council. He has also won several awards in the Arkansas Arts Center annual Delta competition.
His work has been featured in articles in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Arkansas Times, the North Little Rock Times, the Little Rock Free Press, AY magazine and Soiree magazine. He has also been featured in pieces produced by the local affiliates of ABC, CBS and PBS television. His work can also be viewed on his website kevinkresse.com.
“We want people from around the world who tour the U.S. Capitol to recognize who represents our state and Kevin Kresse is a gifted artist who will create a statue that we will all be very proud of,” continued Broadway. “To have the names of Daisy Bates, a civil rights icon with the Little Rock Nine, and Johnny Cash, who will become the first musician enshrined into Statuary Hall, it will tell a great story of Arkansas and we should all be proud.”
“Things are moving well,” added Kresse. “The Cash family has been really sweet and super complimentary. There still needs to be a couple of little changes on the face and some tweaks. But, I’m ahead of the ballgame. Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to unveil it in a 2022 ceremony.”
General tickets for the virtual JCHF are available for $35 and includes access to all streaming sessions. VIP tickets are $75 and include the streaming sessions and an in-person event on Friday, Oct. 15, that will feature live local music, food and drink, and a watch party of the Rosanne Cash concert.
Tickets may be purchased through the festival website, JohnnyCashHeritageFestival.com.
The headline event will be an exclusive concert by Cash’s daughter Rosanne Cash with special performances by 14 of her musical friends who were announced last week.. The artists joining Cash are Cedric Burnside, Jessica Coombs, Sheryl Crow, Rodney Crowell, Dailey & Vincent, Erin Enderlin, Vince Gill, Sarah Jarosz, Jamey Johnson, Keb’ Mo’, The Milk Carton Kids, Margo Price, Darius Rucker, and Chris Stapleton. The concert is scheduled Friday night, Oct. 15.
Other events on the JCHF agenda include presentations by a slate of international scholars on the festival theme, “Social Justice in the Life and Music of Johnny Cash.”
The festival is coordinated through Arkansas State University Heritage Sites and licensed through the John R. Cash Revocable Trust.