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University of Central Missouri
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“Art Race” Across U.S. Leads London Film Crew to UCM Classroom

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (June 23, 2008) – A film crew from London recently paid a visit to a UCM art class while following Los Angeles area artist Kenny Harris on a 40-day trek across the United States.

Racing Across the U.S. to Educate about Art

Harris is one of two artists who were chosen to participate in a new television series called “Art Race.” It is a  program that consists of 12 half-hour episodes being developed by Illuminations Media in the United Kingdom. Producers plan to have it ready to air this fall on British and American television, including such venues as the arts-themed network Gallery HD.

“It’s really an experiment to learn more about the value of art away from the more classical art markets like New York and Los Angeles,” Sebastian Grant, producer/director of the series, said during his visit to campus Tuesday, June 17.

Kenny Harris and the Art Race
Los Angeles artist Kenny Harris, right, and a film crew from London visited a UCM art class during Harris' 40-day trek across America as a participant int the British television program "Art Race."

Chance Meeting in Windsor, MO, Leads Artist to UCM

Grant provided insight into the series as three crew members filmed Harris showing slides and talking about his work to the Ideas and the Visual Arts class taught by Professor of Art History Kathleen Desmond. A couple of students who met the artist while traveling through Windsor, MO, Monday, June 16, invited him to campus after learning more about his cross-country adventure.

Surviving with Art

According to Grant, the premise for the series is that two artists have been given the challenge to work their way across the United States using their art as a means for survival. The competition began in May inNew York City and in Los Angeles with artists being given only $1 from the series’ producers. The contest ends in July with each artist presenting an exhibition upon reaching their final destination, and the winner will be determined by the amount of money each contestant raised during their journey.

“We don’t allow him to travel in our car. We don’t pay for his food or any hotels,” Grant said of Harris. “He’s got to survive just on trading sketches, paintings and drawings for accommodations, rides and pizzas."

Grant noted that UCM students who discovered Harris this week offered him lodging and an invitation to come to class. He said his crew welcomed the opportunity to film in a university setting.

“We thought it would be interesting because Kenny also lectures in art. It would be fascinating to see what students think of the trip...It gives the film a different flavor,” Grant said. “There’s a lot of people who may not be interested in art or, perhaps, art is peripheral to them, but these students are taking an art appreciation course.”

A Classical Artist with Charisma

Grant described Harris as a “classical artist” with a lot of charisma. He and his competitor were selected for the series out of 500 people who applied. A different film crew is following the other contestant.

“Kenny doesn’t know how well the other artist is doing. He doesn’t know how much money he is gaining or where he is in the country. We want to keep it secret from him,” Grant insisted.

The Kindness of Americans

Although the schedule is tough for Harris, it also means long days, and sometimes difficult nights for the crew. As Grant noted, “It’s been grueling. One of us is always with Kenny. Two nights ago, we were in California, MO, and the only place we could find to sleep was the lobby of a bowling alley. So, we just slept in our sleeping bags.”

He said the crew has learned a lot about America since it began its travels. While visiting many small, rural communities and large cities, the filmmakers have been “overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers, and their curiosity.”

Where Next?

So, where is the next stop on Harris’s journey?

“That’s a good question,” Grant said. “Kenny doesn’t know where he’s sleeping tonight, but I think he’ll try to hit Kansas City. The next night, who knows? The next week, who knows? That’s the joy. You never know where you are from day to day.”

One thing that is certain is the artist and film crew left a lasting impression on those who met with them in the Department of Art.

“This was such an exciting event. Completely unplanned and so perfectly suited to our last week of studying Ideas and the Visual Arts,” Desmond said. “I am still high!”

For More Information

Learn more online about Harris, including information about some of his travels.