John Simms, internationally recognized as a “painter of heirlooms,” will be the featured artist during Black History Month at the Kingsport Renaissance Center. The Kingsport Art Guild will host a “meet the artist” opening reception from 2-4 p.m., today in the Renaissance Center gallery.
Simms was born in the parsonage of a small AME Zion Church in Anderson, Ind., and later moved with his family to Indianapolis, where he attended several public schools before graduating from Crispus Attucks High School. With little support for his innate artistic talent, Simms “took up a trade,” as one teacher and his parents suggested.
Simms survived his tour of duty in Vietnam and returned home to pursue a skill trade at General Motors. At GM’s corporate offices in Detroit, where he landed in 1978, his talents were respected and put to good use.
Simms was asked to paint portraits of several GM executives and completed several portraits commissioned by the International UAW. While working for GM in Detroit, he completed his associate art degree with summa cum laude honors in commercial art and photography and obtained a bachelor of fine arts with honors from the Center for Creative Studies College of Art and Design in 1993.
When Simms retired from GM in 1999, he only wanted to paint heirloom portraits and create fine art depicting the positive values that have been with him since his youth. He does so today from his studio on the Cumberland Plateau in Fairfield Glade, Tenn.
Throughout his career, Simms has completed portraits of collegiate, corporate and government officials as well as commissioned paintings of loved ones. His watercolor paintings often reflect images of unrecorded history. Each of his creations tells a story about his subject. Recently completed portraits include Avon W. Rollins, Sr. considered the “Martin Luther King” of East Tennessee; and the Rev. Msgr. Philip Thoni, who served the dioceses of Nashville and Knoxville.
Simms’ exhibit, which will hang through Feb. 19, will feature fine art in oil, acrylics, watercolors and charcoal.
For more information, visit www.simmsfineartist.com or www.kingsportartguild.com .