Katie McBride’s poster design for the annual Richmond Folk Festival (Image courtesy Richmond Folk Festival/Katie McBride)
Richmond’s the kind of town that’ll turn out a crowd to see a the unveiling of a new poster – especially if it’s original art and created for the Richmond Folk Festival. An enthusiastic swarm gathered at the glavé kocen gallery earlier this week to see the work of this year’s poster maker, Katie McBride.
Katie McBride holds up her work during the Richmond Folk Festival poster reveal event at glavé kocen gallery. (Photo by Harry Kollatz Jr.)
McBride grew up outside of Washington, D.C., daughter of a graphic designer mom and a dad with an academic background in art history. “I was super lucky growing up, surrounded by art and near museums,” McBride says. “My mom, when I was bored, and 5, would say, ‘What can I do with you?’ And so we’d go to a museum.”
She found out later that her great-grandfather Col. Harold A. McBride was an early administrator of the National Gallery of Art.
She thought of attending the University of Virginia, where she’d double major in biology and art. But Virginia Commonwealth University won out. “I walked around VCU and saw what the art program was – that and a scholarship, and ultimately I made exactly the right decision. I wasn’t going to be a veterinarian who dabbled on the side.” She earned her B.F.A. in Communication Arts and Design (2004), and attended Lorenzo DiMedici Institute in Florence Italy (2003) and the Illustration Academy (2004).
While still in school and after, McBride found Richmond’s predisposition for festivals and creative music organizations a way to practice her art. “I can’t play any instruments, and I have no talent in that direction, but this was a way I could be involved in music: I can make art for it.” And thus she designed posters and flyers.
And while she didn’t grow up to be a veterinarian who makes art after hours, her work often includes animals playing musical instruments or otherwise cavorting as fantastical creatures.
“I grew up watching the Disney cartoons and had the books by Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey and Beatrix Potter. I gravitate toward the people that draw all these real surreal anthropomorphic figures and American kitsch.”
Today, she’s a designer/illustrator for the University of Richmond and a freelance illustrator. She’s worked in a similar capacity for VCU and served as co-chair of the Richmond Illustrators Club (2006-2012) and an instructor at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond (2005-2012) and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Summer program (2009); she's also a member of the American Institute of Graphic Artists. Her clients have ranged from Saveur.com to Richmond magazine and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
Still, this assignment began with a blank rectangle into which she had to pour her creative self. After getting the call from Venture Richmond, McBride met with the staff and Plan 9 founder Jim Bland to see posters from past festivals and identify the ones they thought best represented the event’s aesthetic.
Guests admire the gallery of past Richmond Folk Festival posters at glavé kocen gallery's poster reveal event on Sept. 7. (Photo by Harry Kollatz Jr.)
Past poster makers include Robert Meganck (2005), JHI (2006), Sterling Hundley (2007), Ed Trask (2008) Jason Smith and Laura Marr (2009), Wes Freed (2010), Matt Lively (2011), Kelly Alder (2012), Brianna Bevan and Jason Frank (2013), Leslie Herman (2014), and last year’s by Bizhan Khodabandeh.
McBride prepared four different draft concepts for Venture Richmond to choose from. “They wanted something different than the past, something Richmond-centric, and they liked my ideas of animals playing in a band.”
Katie McBride signs her work at glavé kocen gallery's Richmond Folk Festival poster reveal event. (Photo by Harry Kollatz Jr.)
McBride’s image draws down the moon and stars as inspiration and connects the festival to the James River and the natural and built environment – the iconic arches of the Atlantic Coast Line Railway Bridge or Belt Line Bridge. (View the bridge's beauty from above.)
The names of the festival’s acts radiate from the moon in waves as a beaver, heron and a constellation-banjo-strumming raccoon gaze toward the play of light and reflection in the water.
As for what she’s most looking forward to at the festival, McBride laughs – she’s not even had time to consult the schedule. She’s taken up Venture Richmond’s offer to set up a table to sell the posters and other work, “And I realized, oh, I might not be able to see much of the festival that way. But I’m really happy for the opportunity.”
The Richmond Folk Festival kicks off Oct. 7-9 on Brown's Island. Read a Q&A with festival performer and co-creator of the Norfolk Sound, Gary U.S. Bonds, in the October issue of Richmond magazine.