One of the my favorite things about racing is the people. Everyone gathers at a track with a shared love of racing, but the various ways in which we all find ourselves connected to this sport is endless. Racing gives us stories. Every fan, media member, staff member, driver, owner, crew member, and in this case, artist… has their own story.
I decided while talking to someone this morning, that I would like to try and share those stories. They bring me such happiness when I hear them, and they create a connection. My hope is that sharing some of these amazing stories will draw my readers in even closer to the sport that they love, and by proxy closer to one another. Because if it’s one thing the world can always use more of… it’s unity.
The media center was empty when I arrived this morning (because everyone else had the sense to sleep in past 4:30 a.m.), but we’re slowly filling up and averaging about a dozen folks right now. One of those folks is Albert Hicks, a photographer that I met last year, right here at Barber Motorsports Park. He immediately came over to greet me and after catching up for a bit, asked me to come check out his wife’s oil paintings of Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. How could I resist that invitation?!
We made our way over to their desk and suddenly I notice two breathtaking oil paintings, each one signifying the Barber victories of the two most recent IndyCar champions. The detail, depth, and blending of elements of each piece was jaw-dropping. I couldn’t stop staring at them. The painter, Katherine Anne Hicks, arrived and we began to talk about the process, the art, and how she came to start painting. Turns out, she’s been painting nearly her entire life, and the detail of the faces is something she’s been perfecting since college. She only starting painting racecars in 2014, for the Barber Historics, but you’d never guess that by looking at her work.
Anne, as she prefers to be called, says that her husband Albert is a lifelong racing enthusiast. He started taking photos as a volunteer photographer with Barber when they first opened in 2003. In 2008, the track found out that Anne had started her painting career in the late 70’s when she created a local billboard advertisement for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, as they would be coming through Birmingham, AL. The circus loved her work so much that they ended up using it around the country. Her talent spoke for itself.
Barber asked Anne if she would create a poster for the track, specifically for their annual Vintage Festival in 2008. She accepted the opportunity, as she’d been busy raising her four children for the past few decades and missed painting very much. It was a mutually beneficial agreement because she’s painted every poster for the event since! Anne is going to be starting on this year’s poster, her 10th, very soon. The 14th Annual Barber Vintage Festival will run from October 5 – 7th this year.
Anne plans to give Josef his painting this weekend, now that it’s completed. She still needs Simon to sign his before she can put on that final layer of varnish – which I learned is essential to keeping an oil painting in tact, and gives it the glossy look you may notice. Something else that I learned is that a print of Josef’s painting will be up for auction tomorrow night at the 8th Annual Racing for Children’s Dinner and Auction. The event takes place at the Barber Motorsports Park Museum and benefits The Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. Over the past 7 years, the event has raised over 1 million dollars and increased awareness for pediatric cancer.
Of course this was the part of my conversation with Anne that gave me goosebumps and made me take a step back. I’m always amazed by how connected all of us are, and how connected we are to our world when we take the time to appreciate and draw those lines. I just celebrated 19 years since my diagnosis as a pediatric oncology patient this past Monday… and here I am standing in the media center at Barber, talking to an artist about her paintings, and low and behold, some sort of crazy full circle thing is happening!
Racing For Children has a livery on one of the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars every year. They race during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama along with IndyCar, so they are here this weekend. Of course, that meant we had to head out to the paddock to see this year’s handprint livery on the No. 1 KMR Porsche!
Interesting side note: The handprints on the livery are different every year, representing the current patients at Alabama Children’s.
I have noticed the livery in year’s past but never really knew the full meaning behind it. As luck would have it, I was able to talk with the Kelly-Moss Road & Race team President and Competition Director, Jeff Stone, and meet this year’s driver, Roman De Angelis. It was obvious that both were honored to be representing Alabama Children’s and the Racing for Children’s mission. Roman was gracious enough to pose for a photograph before heading out to practice.
Jeff gave me some background on the car, explaining that last year’s driver of the No. 1 Porsche was Jake Eidson. He won both races at Barber in 2017, and went on to win the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA Championship last season. He is currently racing for KMR’s counterpart, Project 1 in the German Carrera Cup for the full season and in Super Cup for 3 select races in 2018. There are a lot of changes for him to get used to, but one thing that remains familiar? The Racing For Children’s livery. And it will remain the livery for all his contests throughout the entire year.
Jeff Stone spoke with heartfelt enthusiasm about this, saying, “We are completely dedicated to Children’s Hospital. We’re trying to bring it to the forefront and get the kids all the help they can have.” He showed me a few photos from their visit to Alabama Children’s earlier this week and it not only hit home but made me want to help. As soon as I got back to my desk, I went online and donated to Racing For Children. If you are reading this, I challenge you to do the same!
While working on this piece, Brynley King from Racing for Children’s happened to stop by to say hello, and I learned that the event tomorrow night, and their involvement with the track is not a once-a-year occurrence. They visit with all the kids throughout the year, bring them to the track for as many events as possible during the race season, and even come watch races with them in the hospital! In the span of a few hours, I went from knowing nothing more than the name of this charity, to having complete adoration for it and all the people involved.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty cool. Life really is all about connections and relationships. Just think, my entire morning and this entire article all came to be simply because I engaged one friend in conversation. Imagine the possibilities if we all opened up our hearts and minds, and actively participated in our world on a daily basis. I guess when it comes down to it, that’s what living full throttle is really about.
If you are interesting in commissioning a painting from Anne, or would like to discuss purchasing one of her prints, feel free to email her at email@example.com.
If you would like to support the Racing for Children’s event tomorrow, tickets are still available by going here. You can also click on that link if you’d like to make a donation in support of the event and the kids at Alabama Children’s. Just go to the last line that says, “Handprint donation” and enter the amount you’re able to contribute.
Photo credit: Albert Hicks (Josef & Anne) ; Shay Hazen (all others)