Santa Fe College to celebrate life of Lennie Kesl


Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.

Just as his vibrant paintings lit up the community he loved, the late Gainesville artist Lennie Kesl was known for lighting up a room with his personality.

"He was very bouncy," said Sue Jester, a former Santa Fe College art instructor who worked alongside Kesl for about 20 years. "Always up, just a very positive and exuberant type person."

Gainesville will pay tribute to the late legend at "Hello World," an opening event for Santa Fe College's 44th annual Spring Arts Festival. Named for Kesl's catch phrase, the evening kicks off at 6:30 p.m. today at Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall.

Kesl, who died in November at age 86, spent nearly six decades as a working artist.

He studied in Paris after World War II, then returned to the United States to study at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Michigan State University.

Kesl settled in Gainesville in 1968, when he took a teaching position at the University of Florida.

He never left. After retiring from his nearly 20-year post as an art instructor at SF College in 1991, Kesl stayed in the area, where he often worked with other local artists.

Kesl's work ranged from ceramics to paintings, and his distinctive style became known in the community.

Jester said he was "critical" to Gainesville's art scene.

"He just had a way of always supporting everybody," she said. "He also had a dead-on critique. He was wonderful at that."

Tonight, guests can buy reprints of the two previous Spring Arts posters — for 1984 and 1987 — that were designed by Kesl.

The unveiling of the 2013 poster will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby.

Guests are invited to walk through an exhibit featuring Kesl's work, which opens at 6 p.m. in the Fine Arts Hall. Friends of Lennie, a band of jazz musicians who played music with Kesl over the last 30 years, will perform a concert in his honor beginning at 7 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

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