Winning Market Street artist overcomes heavy odds

January 20, 2018 10:01:03 PM

Slim Smith - [email protected]


Kelly Brown did not expect to be there Friday, when the winning entry for the 2018 Market Street Festival artwork was announced at the Art and Design Building on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. 


In fact, for a fleeting moment a month ago, she didn't expect to "be" at all. 


Brown, a senior graphic design major from Louisville, was selected as the winner of this year's art contest, chosen from among 12 entries from MUW art professor Robert Gibson's advanced art and design class. 


But in one brief and frightening moment in December, the very day the entrants were supposed to present their artwork to the panel of judges who would select the winner, Brown's attention was diverted to something far more serious. 


"I was running late for school that day and as I came around the bend of the road by Harvey's (on Main Street), my car hit some water and started hydroplaning," Brown recalled. "I hit the curb and wound up flipping my car. Two great guys pulled me out of the back window. The next thing I knew I was in the hospital. 


"I had never been in a car crash before," she added. "It was terrifying." 


Aside from some bumps and bruises, Brown wasn't injured, but was kept in the hospital for observation for several hours. 


It was only then she thought of her presentation. 


"I called Dr. Gibson and told him what had happened and that I wouldn't be able to submit my entry," she said. "He told me he would submit it for me, but really, I thought I didn't have a chance to win because I couldn't make my presentation." 


Gibson, whose class has been used as the source of the Market Street artwork competition for 10 years, said Brown's inability to present her work to the panel of judges chosen to select the winning entry put her at a distinct disadvantage. 


"The presentation is really a big part of it," he said. "It gives the student a chance to tell the judges what they were thinking ... and explain their artwork. Kelly couldn't do that." 


Brown was surprised to learn that her work had made the final five anyway, but figured that was about as much success as she could hope for. 


"When they told me I won, I was really surprised," she said. "I didn't believe I had any chance to win. I was just happy to be in the final five." 


Market Street Director Barbara Bigelow said Brown's winning entry captured the variety of attractions the Market Street Festival has to offer. 


"There's so much going on at the festival and Kelly's work shows that in a fun way," Bigelow said, 


The winning entry shows those elements -- a painter's brush representing the festival's arts and crafts offerings, a knife and fork representing the festival's food, a guitar representing the musical entertainment and a corn-dog with mustard signifying the festival's "fair" atmosphere -- wrapped loosely in a banner with bearing the Market Street Festival name and dates (May 4-5). 


"I got the idea when I was in my fiance's kitchen," Brown said. "He had some cooking utensils in a jar. So I kind of used that as my inspiration." 


Brown's winning artwork will be displayed on all Market Street marketing material -- posters, billboards, advertisings -- as well as t-shirts and other souvenirs. 


In addition to the exposure for her artwork and a nice embellishment on her resume when she graduates in December, Brown also received a $300 check. 


"I'm using it for my wedding," she said.

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]