Kivette’s New York Paintings at Yancey Library Gallery

For nearly a half-century at his Painting in the Mountains Studio established in 1966, Everett McNeill Kivette welcomed and inspired students as had his mentor, nationally-known artist Frank Stanley Herring at his Burnsville Painting Classes.

Everett’s body of work from 1953 to the early 1960s while living in New York’s Greenwich Village, then on Long Island, and finally in Upper Manhattan included oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, and prints.

An exhibit of Everett’s New York paintings and prints can be viewed at the Herring-Kivette Gallery at Yancey County Public Library through June 29, 2024 during regular library hours: M-W-F from 9-5, TT from 9-7, and Saturday 10-1.

The art Everett created while living in New York City coincided with a definitive time there when artists, writers and musicians were experiencing a renaissance of sorts. His upstairs neighbor was Harper Lee who was working on her novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and other artists, including Edward Hopper, were living nearby.

For Everett, it was a long and productive journey that took him from his agricultural heritage in Buies Creek in eastern NC to Burnsville to New York, then back to the mountains of Yancey County.

While taking classes at Mars Hill College, Everett came to Yancey in the late 1940s to study art at Herring’s Burnsville Painting Classes. His journey back to Burnsville included serving in the Navy, then graduating from Wake Forest University, then moving to New York City in 1953 to pursue his dream of becoming an artist.

While living there, he met and married Ruth Montgomery in 1954, earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree and Master of Sacred Theology degree from Union Theological Seminary, preached at a Black church in Harlem, and did graduate work in art history at Columbia University and the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

In the early 1960s Everett returned to Burnsville to again study with Herring. His wife remained in NY where she taught English literature at Barnard College but spent her summers in Burnsville.

During the intervening years after Herring’s school closed in 1961 due to his deteriorating health, Burnsville Painting Classes student Watson Nieland built a studio a short distance behind the NuWray Hotel on Water Tank Road. Upon his death that property was acquired by hotel owner Rush Wray. It was with Wray’s encouragement that Everett Kivette and John Bryans, also a student of Herring’s, fulfilled their dream of reviving the summer art school. Upon Herring’s death in 1966, Everett built a large studio off Phillips Knob Road just one mile north of Burnsville’s Town Square that operated continuously from 1966 through 2012. Everett became sole proprietor of the classes in 1972.

Everett Kivette was a prolific painter and much-loved art teacher. For nearly five decades, Painting in the Mountains carried on the painting school legacy that began here in the 1940s. Everett offered instruction to students from the region and across the country. He spent much of his life in Yancey County and developed a deep appreciation for the mountain people and their culture.

Ruth died in 2018 and Everett in 2020. They had established a trust with the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina to support the Herring-Kivette Gallery and Archives at Yancey County Public Library. The trust provides funding, administered by AMY Regional Library System, to care for the extensive art collection and mount regular exhibits of work by Herring and Kivette, as well as other artists.

Kivette’s Painting in the Mountains Studio was sold in 2023 to benefit Yancey County Public Library, which permanently houses the gallery and archives. The new owners of the studio property are Allison Edge, a painter who has family ties to Burnsville, and Ivaylo Gueorgiev, a photographer/painter originally from Bulgaria. They moved to Yancey County in 2019 after working as artists in New York City for the past 19 years. They assisted with curating and installing the current exhibit. Everett’s New York work was carefully cleaned and re-framed for this exhibit by Karen Gould at Hang It Up Frame Shop in Micaville.