Tuesday evening, the poster for the 2014 Richmond Folk Festival, designed by Leslie Herman, was unveiled at Glavé Kocen Gallery on West Main Street in a single-night exhibition of posters from 2005 to the present. Some process drawings were also included.
The unveiling of the 10th annual Richmond Folk Festival poster included a celebration of previous years' art.
I caught up to Herman at the event and we chatted briefly about his getting chosen to create this year’s image. Herman, a Delaware native, graduated in 2009 from Virginia Commonwealth University with a commercial arts degree. He thereafter studied at the Illustration Academy here and apprenticed under renowned illustrator and artist Sterling Hundley. He finished studies in 2011 through the Career Mentorship Program with the Art Department. He moved to Chicago for two years and returned to Richmond in August. Herman’s work has appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and the New York Times.
Herman got a call from Hundley during the past summer about creating the festival image, not knowing then of Herman's intention of returning to Richmond.
“So that was a great way to say, 'Welcome home!' ” Herman says.
Leslie Herman, designer of the 2014 Richmond Folk Festival poster
To figure out the imagery, Herman started making lists. “What did the festival mean to me, the emotions conveyed to people who go, how it affects Richmond and life here, what it feels like, what it looks like.” Prior to leaving Richmond, he’d attended the festival two or three times and the enduring impression he carries is, “It’s a great time and an amazing thing for Richmond.”
Herman envisioned a giant guitar structure, hammered together with scraps of wood, adorned by a gramophone horn sprouting from the sound hole. It stands in the river and spectators are clambering upon it like a tree fort. One could probably tie a boat to it, too.
BJ Kocen, co-operator of the gallery — and a musician, took a few moments away from the table where prints of the poster enjoyed brisk sales. “We were honored that the festival organizers chose us as the place for this and it’s a cool concept, showing all the posters and how the ideas got kicked around by the artists.” Some of the pieces will be removed to the rear of the gallery as artist Louis Poole has an show going up there.
Among the artists whose past efforts were on display was former Richmond magazine staffer Jason Smith. He even managed to find the first little sketch he used to figure out the arrangement of the words. He and Laura Marr created the 2009 poster.
The 2009 Richmond Folk Festival poster by Jason Smith and Laura Marr
Herman says of the hardscrabble guitar, “It’s a magical object, something that looks like it works but really couldn’t. It’s ‘Build it, and they will come,’ too, which is like the festival. And I like drawing guitars; they are great shapes.”
He and you will see plenty of them — and other instruments of intriguing forms — at the Richmond Folk Festival, running Oct. 10 to 12.