Arts Across Kentucky
Spring 2002

Twice the Heart
Generous and giving people are not hard to find among artists. But when two such people, blessed with artistic talent, are committed to each other and to their community, it is a rare and wonderful thing.  Caroline Joy Fletcher and Eugene Thomas share that kind of commitment.  They both work for the city of Louisville.  The reside in an early-20th-century cottage off St. Catherine Street in Old Louisville,  It is filled with art from floor to ceiling, and they paint side by side.  As with many artists, making a living by doing their artwork would be financially stressful; they give to much of it away to good causes.

Fletcher and Thomas have dabbled in artistic endeavors since they were young.  They met at an art exhibit during the Humana Festival of plays at Louisville's Actors Theatre several years ago and found they were kindred spirits, sharing a drive to create and a need to be an active part of a community.  One result of this strong sense of commitment, in addition to bringing the joy of art to those who might not other wise have an opportunity to get close to it, is that much of their work goes to efforts to improve the lives of other people.  They contribute to numerous fundraising efforts for many organizations, including the African American Cancer Society of Louisville, the Mike Wallace Benefit dinner for Bridge Haven, a Louisville facility for the mentally ill; the Wesley House, a neighborhood community center; the Louisville Urban League; St. Francis High School; the Shamrock Foundation; and Haven House in Jeffersonville, Indiana, to name just a few.

Both artists came to discover the artist within in their own way.  Fletcher, who did "a lot of crafts" as a child growing up in Nashville, graduated with distinction from Jefferson Community College in 1989 with a two-year degree in fine arts.  Shortly after she was devastated by the news of the suffering being experienced by the people of Rwanda.  Inspired to do something to help the victims of this conflict, she painted Stepping Out, an image of an African American woman centered in the home continent, with a title that reflected her personal sense of entering the art world, and The First Twelve, a rich , colorful swirl of African women that suggests the African coastline.  It became the first of a series of images donated to various fundraising organizations and charities and the basis of her reproduction business.

Other thought-provoking and insightful images followed, no the least of which are the multihued faces and hands of her ongoing Color of Music series.  "The concept of my mosaic images, using many different colors of paint and playing all types of musical instruments, represents all ethnic groups.  they were created with the thought of being like our society, integrated colors working together in an effort to create harmony," said Fletcher.  "that's what we must all concentrate on more," she said, "on diverse cultures working together to make this a better place to live."

Fletcher teaches art appreciation to at risk children at the Louisville Central Community Center, a program funded by a $6,000 grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women.  Recently, she created masks for a Louisville charity event called "Mask Unveiling:  Faces of Hope,"  a benefit for Mary Hurst, a residential treatment facility for troubled children and their families.  One of the masks was used as the logo for the event.  She has had work in shows at the Louisville Visual Art Association and was the featured artist at the 1996 Atlanta Art Expo.  She was presented with an Arts and Culture Award by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 2000 for "distinguished accomplishments and limitless creativity," and in 2001, she received the Kentucky Foundation for Women's Artist Enrichment Grant and the Black Achiever's Award.

Thomas, too, is inspired by a spiritual purpose.  As a child, he frustrated his mother by confiscating some of his uncle's paints and exuberantly putting a mural on the walls of his room.  He loved the cultural field trips of his school years.  As a young adult, he spent two years in the Navy.