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Kent's prominence as an artist, author, adventurer and socio-political activist made him a media phenomenon. In the 1920's he purchased a dairy farm, and named it Asgaard near Ausable Forks in the Eastern Adirondacks. It was a working farm, and his home, until his death in 1971.
Ferris is the author of numerous books about Rockwell Kent's life and work. He's been a Kent specialist for nearly 40 years. Ferris says the exhibit, "encompasses everything you ever wanted to know about Rockwell Kent that was already in front of your face," in reference to Kent's multi-faceted career.
While some artists are referred to as the "most popular" after just a little fame, Ferris believes Kent truly merits the accolade. “Whether you like Kent or not, you see Kent out there, you hear him out there, you read him, and so how can you escape him?”
Ferris’ connection to Kent’s work started in 1978 when he was a SUNY Plattsburgh student. He was placed in charge of cataloguing the collection of work donated by Sally Kent Gorton (the artist’s widow) to the college. After meeting her a year later, Ferris helped to manage the Rockwell Kent legacies for two years.
Ferris thinks interest in Kent will never die out. Much of his legacy is still being released in new printings. Passing on Kent’s work to the next generation is always on Ferris’s mind. He believes this exhibit is a unique opportunity for students to learn about Kent in all the variety of his works. While Ferris likes a lot of Kent’s work for various reasons, he doesn’t have a single favorite. He did mention one piece, a label made to celebrate the Arkansas Centennial in 1936. “End Peonage,” it proclaims. The work is only a couple inches square, but shows tremendous artistic ability and exemplifies Kent’s values for civil and human rights.
Ferris says Kent’s message to people would be, “Get up out of bed, get to work, no matter what that work is, take care of yourself and then help your neighbor.”