Colorado artist Scott Kirby marries music, images and narrative

In the early 1900s, nine out of 10 adults in America were amateur musicians and yet John Phillip Sousa predicted a time when people wouldn’t create their own music.

That time has arrived. Just a hundred years later, only one in 10 adults are amateur musicians.

It’s pieces of American history like this that Scott Kirby explores Friday and Saturday in his multimedia show “Main Street Souvenirs.” The two-hour show includes live piano, projected images and narratives that focus on small-town America over the past 150 years and the cultural topics it raises, including the technology that has led to an era where people are listening to others’ music rather than creating their own.

Kirby, an Ohio native who lives in Bolder, Colo., began his professional career in music, where he focused on ragtime and performed around the world. Visual art was the last thing he expected to be doing. But several years ago, he was drawing with his daughter when images poured into his mind and wouldn’t stop; he had to get them out on paper.

“I’m not an intentional artist, I’m an accidental artist,” Kirby said in a phone interview. “My musical career has been intentional, my artistic career has not.”

The result is vivid rural scenes inspired by the Great Plains, the main source of inspiration for his artwork and original musical compositions.

“I resonate with that territory and I don’t know how else to put it,” Kirby said. “I love the ocean, I love the desert — the mountains are fine too. But the prairie inspires me to paint and compose. I feel the vibrations of the Earth more when I’m in the grassland than when I’m anywhere else.”

The show, then, is a fusion of his visual art and musical compositions. Once Kirby had created a number of visual and musical pieces, it was inevitable that he would bring them together.

“It was separate, but it needed to be married, it needed to be part of the same presentation,” Kirby said.

The images in the show include Kirby’s original artwork, along with archival and original video. Kirby had to learn the technology that would make his vision possible and when the show debuted in January, he found the result was something that appealed to audiences of all ages.

“I’ve got kids who will finally sit still in a show, which is really rare,” he said with a laugh. “And then I’ll get people in the senior crowd who will come to me afterwards in tears. People just like it.”

He explained that people respond most quickly to the visual art — images, he said, that are not real places but that could be real places. But the music is what intensifies the experience.

“Potentially, I think music is the most powerful,” Kirby said. “I think it reaches deepest into the human heart.”

As to the challenges of working extensively in two separate mediums, Kirby has found the two complement each other.

“Creatively, it’s all part of the same big reservoir,” Kirby said. “There’s color in music and there’s movement in art.”

A video preview of the show is at:

If you go: What: Scott Kirby’s “Main Street Souvenirs — In Search of the American Heartland” When: 5 p.m. artist reception and 7 p.m. concert Friday, 11:30 p.m. concert Saturday Where: Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History in Lewiston Cost: Free

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