Former KAIT art director remembered with art showing

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Three years ago this week, an artist familiar to many longtime residents passed away.  Bix Smith was 70 years old.  Now the work of this multi-faceted painter, sketch artist and chronicler of history is being re-discovered in a very big way.

Bix Smith was an actor in community theater and loved to play guitar. But it was his talent behind an easel that was unmistakable.

"I was intrigued by his line work and his ability to capture the human form so accurately," said Sean Shrum, owner of the gallery where Smith's work is about to be shown.  Shrum was just a teenager then.

"I bought my first piece when I was 15 and when I left for college, I lost touch with him."

Many years later, Shrum was trying to contact Smith when it was learned that he had passed away.  His family is now allowing Shrum to display hundreds of sketches, caricatures, and paintings in homes of raising money for a scholarship at Jonesboro High School that bears his name.

"We actually filled up a few trailer loads full of work. His house was covered from top to bottom in art.  Piles and piles--just stacked," said Shrum.

Among those pieces, the actual drawings from inside the courtroom during the West Memphis three trials.  A young Damien Echols depicted here.  Jason Baldwin and defense attorney Paul Ford, so vivid in detail, there's no mistaking the key players in the case.

"One was pastel...and in the other courtroom drawings, I believe he used prism colored pencils and they are a little more definite. The drawing ability tighter."

The adjudication hearing of Westside school shooters Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden...also captured in sketches.

But there was a lighter side to Bix Smith.  One that captured a President doing what he loved best, drawings of ASU coaches mass produced on grocery bags.  And from 1973 to 1989, Bix worked as art director for KAIT.

Several of us at the TV station were featured in Bix's work.  This one was created for the Northeast Arkansas District Fair back in 1989.  Each personality captured whimsically in the role they were known for, be it weather or sports.

"It just fascinated me because he had such a great ability to render any subject matter."

The Bix Smith Retrospective begins Friday night with a reception at the Sean Shrum art gallery.  Parents should be advised the collection contains many nude drawings and paintings. So it's not recommended to bring children to the art show which lasts through the end of March.

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