By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY– Jesse Kunerth had never been to Oklahoma before. Despite traveling the country showcasing his art, the Florida native had never set foot in the Sooner state.
That changed recently when Kunerth, better known as Jackson, attended the 55th Annual Oklahoma City Festival of The Arts. After spending six days in the state, he may have left wondering why it took him so long to come.
“This is always one of those festivals that a lot of artists have recommended,” Kunerth said. “It’s long, So many artists I talk to, it’s like, “Jesse, you would do so well if you went there.” So I wanted to try it out. And even though it’s a different time of year, it’s been awesome. I will be back.”
The Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts lasted from June 22-27 and took place 100-degree heat for the majority of it. Kunerth was worn out when it was done, but the trip was well worth it.
“The festival is great, lots of top-quality artists,” Kunerth said. “The staff is great. Overall, it’s a top-notch festival for sure. It’s definitely been very receptive and just people knowing that I’m new that come to the festival all the time and saying like, “Oh, you’re new here, and we love your stuff.” Every day has been amazing.”
Kunerth seemed to be one of the more popular artists at the festival this year. With his unique style of hand-drawn illustrations, his work defiantly stood out from some of the other forms that were on display.
“I create pop art, digital pop art, hand-drawn illustrations,” Kunerth said. “They combine different textures: wood, paper and maps. The goal is to create digital art with a story.”
It is that style that made Kunerth a strong choice by the Arts Council selection committee to bring to this year’s festival. Only 144 out of 550 artists who applied were chosen to attend this year’s festival.
“I would definitely say my art’s geared towards a younger crowd, for sure,” Kunerth said. “I did talk to a few people. They were on the committee, and they said they kind of chose to have younger artists be a part of the show, as well.”
But what may have made Kunerth ever more of a fan favorite was the choice of subjects he had on display. Of the 144 visual artists on hand, Kunerth was the only one who brought artwork that featured people of color.
Kunerth’s booth featured iconic people such as 2-Pac, Dolly Parton, Vice-President Kamala Harris, Bob Marley and Pres. Barack Obama were just a few of the pieces he had for sale at his booth.
“You kind of have this perception of Oklahoma as being super conservative. But for the most part, I mean, I’ve been welcomed with open arms and haven’t had any issues,” Kunerth said. “It’s been amazing, lots of love, for sure.”
Kunerth’s most popular work at the Oklahoma City festival were pieces that featured civil rights icon John Lewis, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Amanda Gorman, who read “The Hill We Climb” as President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
When one excited fan asked how Kunerth picks his subjects, Kunerth told him he just creates what he likes.
Kunerth, who is the son of longtime Orlando Sentinel writer Jeff Kunerth, got his start in the art world at a young age. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that he found a way to turn his graphic design skills into a career in art.
“Always been into art, and then went to school for graphic design and then was always kind of doing pop art on the side,” Kunerth said. “Then, after 12 years working at an architectural firm, I kind of did the jump and started just doing art festivals. It’s been six years doing it full-time. I love it.”
To see more work from Kunerth, go to Dosecreative.com.
Copy & Photos by Michael Kinney