Unveiling party set July 3
at Ground Zero Blues Club
Christen Craven Barnard begins autographing posters
she designed for the 22nd Sunflower River Blues
and Gospel Festival. Festival co-chairman John
Sherman (left) encourages the public to attend
the unveiling of her art at 9 p.m. Friday, July
3, at Ground Zero Blues Club. Barnard’s
image is featured also on t-shirts that will be
sold during the unveiling and later at the festival’s
hospitality booth August 7-9 in downtown Clarksdale.
CLARKSDALE –High praise, fun and intrigue are
forecast for the unveiling of Cristen Craven Barnard’s
unique tapestry design for the 22nd Sunflower River
Blues and Gospel Festival.
The event that traditionally opens the Sunflower Festival
season takes place at 9 p.m. Friday, July 3, at Ground
Zero Blues Club.
“Cristen has created a dynamite design with terrific
colors,” comments festival co-chairman John Sherman.
Sherman’s assessment draws unanimous agreement
at Wednesday’s Sunflower Association meeting.
However, it fails to mention Barnard’s intricate
artistry and the “hidden treasures” she’s
tucked away and layered in a tapestry of graphics that
transform it into a game of exploration.
“I wanted to feature the word, ‘Crossroads,’
prominently in this design,” says Barnard. “I
also wanted to include “Mississippi.’”
How this mission is accomplished with the interplay
of color opposites: yellow and purple: blues and orange
- is testament to Barnard’s signature talents
acclaimed at historic festivals and landmarks across
Mississippi and the Mid-South.
“The bluesman in this poster is not an old-timer;
he’s a ‘now’ performer,” says
Standing on the open face of a giant sunflower against
a “Crossroads” maze filled with symbols
written vertically and horizontally: “Clarksdale,”
“home,” “Mississippi,” “blues,”
“Cooke,” “year,” “48,”
“61” and the whisper of a cotton field in
the background, the guitarist is wearing a hat centering
the letter “O.”
Barnard says the character is generic – not modeled
on a known musician.
Two earlier designs she created for the Sunflower have
been labeled “masterpieces” and reflect
Barnard’s status as a member of the Mississippi
Arts Commission’s prestigious MAC Artist Roster.
The designs include a portrait of Jelly Roll King drummer
Sam Carr in 2006 and the 20th anniversary poster in
Asked to name her personal favorite, she quickly replies,
“All are different; each fits the year.”
Sam Carr playing drums is an energetic personal interpretation
of his character, style and performance, she says, and
20th anniversary poster focusing on a veteran bluesman
and scenes of Clarksdale is “commemorative”
Barnard has created designs for five King Biscuit Blues
Festivals in Helena and numerous Highway 61 Blues Festivals
Currently working on exterior panels for Leland’s
Highway 61 Blues Museum, she has produced murals in
Helena, Leland, Batesville, Merigold, Charleston, and
Tutwiler’s famous murals documenting the birthplace
of the blues with W. C. Handy hearing blues for the
first time outside the train depot.
Among her portrait commissions are paintings of retiring
University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat,
Dr. Wally Conerly, vice chancellor of the University
Medical Center, and former state Rep. Charlie Capps
for Delta State University.
Although she enjoys directing diverse art workshops
and interactions with students, current steamy temperatures
are keeping her indoors with portrait commissions.
The 22nd free Sunflower Festival takes place Aug. 7-9
in downtown Clarksdale with a special tribute to Sam
Cooke. Musicians will be featured on four stages: two
acoustic stages, a main stage, and a gospel stage.
There also will be a free educational forum “Remembering
Sam Cooke,” Saturday afternoon, Aug. 8. The dedication
of a Mississippi Heritage Blues Trail marker honoring
Cooke is also being planned during the festival.
The July 3 unveiling party at Ground Zero is open to
the public. Barnard will be autographing posters. T-shirts,
caps, and other festival merchandise will be on sale.
Festival schedules and lineups can be viewed on the
Sunflower’s website: www.sunflowerfest.org