Eileen Kennedy: A Passion for Art, Cuba and the Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT CITY – The evening of Aug. 26th, local art lovers and tourists alike filled the Montgomery Café for the opening of an exhibit by painter Eileen Kennedy. The exhibit runs through the end of September.Kennedy's show features new work painted in New England as well as several from her "Made in Havana" series.As a journalist for the Boston-based artsMEDIA magazine, Kennedy traveled to Cuba from 2002 to 2007, where she exhibited both in Havana and at the Museum of Art in Pinar del Rio. “I intentionally went over there without any finished work,” she explained. “I wanted to create the work for the show with the same materials and means as other Cuban artists.”Many Cuban artists have to use gas because turpentine is scarce and expensive, said Kennedy, who was invited to have a one-woman show in Havana and was even provided space to work. Kennedy said she would return to Cuba “In a heartbeat.... I want to go again and see my family of friends.”Kennedy calls herself a studio painter and creates works from her “emotional memory of place.”Kennedy, a native of New York City, has spent the majority of her life in New England. Before realizing that she was an artist, Kennedy was studying law. One Wednesday morning, while still a student, she stumbled across a painting class at a YMCA. At first, Kennedy was disappointed because everyone in the class was painting from a photograph. She then tried to paint a still life her teacher set up for her. Still uninspired, she found herself drawing a portrait of the person standing next to her. “When I first picked up that pencil and started to draw, it was electric,” Kennedy said. “It was Eureka! I had never felt anything like that in my life. A person can be good at many things, but a person only has one true calling.”Kennedy's move to Newport, VT, fulfilled a long-standing dream of hers.“I fell in love with this town the first time I saw it and hoped I could be able to have a house here someday.” Her dream came true, and not only is Newport her new home in New England, but her new source of inspiration."I just discovered Eagle's Point. It's magical! I drive or bike over there often on drawing excursions."To see the artist at work, visit her studio in the lower level of the Montgomery Building/Newport Natural Foods, 194 Main St. Her works are currently on display at Montgomery's Café.