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Appalachian Powerhouse and Jack Of All Trades: Katie Ann Barker

They say aura’s are a reflection of your state of being. My best definition is “the energy

someone gives off.” If you’ve never had the privilege of sitting down to chat with Katie Ann Barker you’re missing out. Quite possibly one of the most talented, down-to-earth artists I’ve met, from little old Appalachia, complete with a sweet accent that is like music to your ears. You could feel her aura through the phone, because she’s just that cool.

Katie Ann’s love of art was born from an early age. She grew up watching shows like Imagination Station and Mr. Mihuta The Art Maker. But! Art Cart, in the early ‘80s, was her favorite show in the entire world. “I would grab glue, paint, construction paper, and my fisher price art station. I liked how she used everyday things. That’s where I got my love for using things that you normally wouldn’t think can be used to make art. I see inspiration in everything. I get some of that from my Daddy, too. He’s a really creative person. So, I’ve always had it in me to create things.”

Katie Ann has been painting her entire life, and has always been very artistically driven.

She was in an art show about 10 years ago with FOOTMAD. “They did a little art show out of somebody’s house on the East End, and I had a couple multimedia things in there. I don’t even know how my art was seen.” Yet, it was, and she was well on her way to selling her art.

Katie Ann’s humbleness shines bright sometimes, especially when she told me, “One of my most difficult things is to price. I remember looking at all the other pieces at this art show. The least expensive was 150 bucks and I’m like I have $15 in my little painting, but I understand that it’s not about materials - it’s about the time I put into my art.” As a writer, I couldn’t relate more to what she was saying in that moment. “But there were fancy cheese snacks and wine, so it was fun!” And that my friends, is how to sum up how beautiful Katie Ann really is!

Currently, she has two multi-media pieces up at Big River Records. “I like to incorporate, not just paint when I make something. For example, I like doing art on drum heads. I like to paint on them because I like circles. So anytime Shane changes out a drum head I’m like give me them. They’re an interesting media to use because they hold paint so well.” Katie Ann isn’t just an artist; she plays bass in two of Charleston’s well-known bands, Unmanned and Three’s Company Blues.

If you’re in the music scene in WV, you have probably worked with Brad Kinder and Tony Daniels. So, of course, when I mention those two, Katie tells me that Tony at Big River talked to her about having an art show when they get into their new space. A theme around tiny canvases, two inch square itty bitty paintings, and serve tiny finger foods. “I was just floored by that.” I told Katie Ann how I love that the community of Charleston, WV has started to really support one another across different platforms. Katie said “That's one of my favorite things about our area. I don’t wonder if the pandemic didn’t change things.”

Katie Ann got several positive things out of quarantine too, “Something nice was being

Katie and Three's Company guitarist Ryan Wright

able to have time to paint, doodle, write, learn acrylic nails. To see how ferociously people were supporting each other. But, I gotta hand it to Ryan, our guitar player. Three’s Company Blues had a CD release at The Glass on March 14th, and then that Monday - everything just shut down. My work sent us home by noon. The very next day - Ryan was researching streaming software and equipment.”

As an artist, musician, independent contractor, basically anyone in the entertainment industry knew they were about to be walloped. Pandemic for entertainment meant, “We have to stay relevant, and we have to stay working - we would do a stream, and people would send tips. I was personally very fortunate because I was able to work from home.” So when Katie Ann received her stimulus checks, she would buy local art to help people out. “I saw other people doing the same thing, and it was just - awesome.”

Three’s Company Blues stayed alive and relevant during COVID with some sweet Facebook live concerts and videos. The best video might be the one where they talk about getting Memphis BBQ overnighted to Charleston, WV - because “sometimes if you’re desperate for the taste of Southern BBQ, you order an extravagant amount of Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Que.”

Kattie rehearsing with fellow Unmanned members Andrea Anderson (guitar) and Misty Lomas (drums)

Katie Ann’s rockabilly, surf punk, all-girl band “Unmanned did the same thing.” They streamed live from Unmanned HQ - which is Misty’s house. “Our CD release party was virtual - it was a stream, and it was incredibly successful. We missed going out and being able to support people. I was always happy to be able to watch my friends’ bands through the pandemic.“ Both bands are regularly back in the live music circuit, with Three’s Company Blues playing December 11th at The Local in Summersville. Then, on December 15th, they are at Red Barn Radio in Lexington. It’s a stream - not live, but will air, and details will be on their social media. In addition, Unmanned hosts open mic at The Empty Glass on the fourth Monday of every month. So there’s no shortage of when you can see either band in the near future.

However, on January 13th, Three’s Company Blues will play a fundraiser with the

Huntington Blues Society because “we are going to Memphis for a blues competition.” I love how modest Katie Ann is. They’re going to Memphis for The International Blues Challenge. A five-day competition that features over 200 acts from around the world. If you’ve never played Beale Street, in my humble opinion, there’s just something about that town that hits your soul. I sang there once, and I can still feel that city in my bones. To which I asked Katie,

“Have you ever been to Memphis?”

“We went three years ago - Memphis is just so cool.”

“It’s electric.”

“Yes! Before we went, this guy Mike Lyzenga from the Huntington Blues Society was telling us about Memphis and how the city just has this electric charge. It’s got its own energy - the grime of the city - not in a nasty way. It’s just got this “heat” to it - even in the cold weather.”

See more of Katie's work and learn how to connect with her in her Visual Arts profile and her Music profile



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