Special To The Daily Journal
Throughout more than 35 years as a ceramic artist, Greenwood’s Jim Kemp never let the acclaim of the public or the praise of the judges cloud his humble view of his art.
“It’s all practice,” he would say whenever someone commented on the artistic quality of his work — the colorful, imaginative platters, teapots, vases, bowls and “flight-of-fantasy” creations he spun on the wheel in his Greenwood studio.
At the time of his death from a heart attack in November 2013 at the age of 58, Kemp had work displayed in the homes of collectors and in art exhibits around the nation, but the ribbons and awards presented to him by judges throughout his career were hung on nails in the back of his closet — behind his work clothes.
“Jim was a very talented artist who was modest about his skills and amazing talent,” Susan Snyder, a Bloomington ceramic artist and fellow member of the Local Clay Potters’ Guild said recently. “His work was unique, bright and colorful, just like Jim. His forms were playful and always well executed. He was an outstanding craftsman.”
Kemp also was known for sharing his knowledge with his peers, particularly beginning potters hoping to follow him into full-time careers in art.
During Labor Day weekend, the “Jim Kemp Memorial Fund” — a not-for-profit, tax-exempt fund launched in July by the Kemp family and the potters’ guild — will present its first “Jim Kemp Craftsmanship Award” at Bloomington’s annual 4th Street Art Fair.
The fund was created with money donated in Kemp’s honor to the guild as memorials after his death, then added to by other donors who heard about efforts to create the fund. This spring, the fund was established as a not-for-profit corporation with federal and state tax exemption status.
A five-person board administers the fund, headed by Toby Kemp, Jim’s son of Indianapolis, a recent graduate of the Indiana University Kelly School of Business. Also on the board are Ann and Bud Herron, Jim’s sister and brother-in-law, of Columbus, and Snyder and Leanne Ellis, two of Jim’s friends who are Bloomington area artists and members of the potters’ guild.
The purposes of the fund are to honor artists for their work, assist beginning artists as they enter the field and further the importance of art through education and promotion.
“My dad was a remarkable man whose art was a gift to the world and a livelihood for our family,” said Toby. “Both his family and his peers in the guild want to honor his memory by promoting art of all kinds in his name. We are starting out with funds provided by his friends and family in the hope of building a perpetual fund that can make a significant contribution. Our assets are not large at this point, but we hope they will continue to grow and become an ever increasing asset for the artists and the artwork of Indiana.”
Donations to the fund are tax-exempt and may be sent to the Jim Kemp Memorial Fund, 840 W. Main Street, Greenwood, IN, 46142.