A memorial exhibition, “Freda Fairchild: Beyond Expectations” opens at the PJC Gallery and Downstairs Alcove Gallery at West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Paducah School of Art & Design (PSAD) 2D/Graphic Design Building at 905 Harrison Street on Thursday, October 12, with an opening reception from 5-7 PM. “Beyond Expectations” is running concurrently through November 8 with PSAD’s “Legacy 2–The Lower Town Arts District” exhibit, featuring a collection of artwork by previous and current Lower Town artists.
Shand Stamper, Fairchild’s niece and art teacher at McCracken County High School, was thrilled when Paul Aho, PSAD Dean, offered the gallery space for a memorial exhibition. “We had a very short turn around to make a show of this scale happen but it is an accurate representation of the breadth and scale of Freda’s work,” said Stamper.
Fairchild, who passed away on June 29, was an enthusiastic and prolific multi-media artist who maintained a studio/gallery at Studio Miska, 627 Madison in Paducah’s Lower Town Arts District. She worked primarily in fiber arts, costume design, and a non-toxic printmaking process, which she enjoyed sharing with other artists.
“Preparing the work [for the exhibition] has been a cathartic experience,” said Stamper. “I think the hardest part of her passing is that she has been a mentor to me my whole life. So much of the person I am, as a maker, has been influenced by Freda. More than her talent, I deeply admired her commitment to her work. She worked every single day. She worked until she couldn’t anymore and then she cried because she couldn’t work.”
A Kentucky native, Fairchild earned a bachelor’s degree in Art at Berea College. After attending graduate courses in art at San Francisco State University, she remained in California studying printmaking and teaching before eventually devoting herself entirely to making art. She returned to Kentucky in 2001 to participate in the “At Home Project” with Judy Chicago at Western Kentucky University. She ventured to Paducah one weekend during that time, bought a home, and became one the first participants in the city’s Artist Relocation Program.
Fairchild has a rich and lengthy exhibition history. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including shows in Austria, Sweden, Japan, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, France and United Kingdom. Her work can be seen locally in private collections and at the chapel at Lourdes Hospital. She was a founding member and chair of the Paducah Arts Alliance, which facilitates an artist-in-residence program involving artists from across the globe.
Since Fairchild’s death this past summer, Stamper has been sorting, matting, mounting, pricing, and inventorying her aunt’s extensive body of work. All artwork on display as well as individual original prints are available for purchase throughout the PSAD exhibition.
In the spirit of Fairchild’s passion for collaborating with other artists, a second event, “Freda Fairchild: Beyond Life Collaboration” is being planned by family and friends for Spring 2018. “Freda delighted in the process of making and in sharing. Her work both finished and left in progress should not be abandoned to turn to dust on shelves and in boxes,” said Stamper. Small bundles of Fairchild’s unfinished printed papers will be available for artists to purchase and “respond” to for the Spring 2018 exhibit. “Help me cast her net farther into the future with this show.”
More information on how to become involved in this collaborative project will be available at PSAD’s October 12 opening reception.