UA Art Historian Recruits Kentuck Festival Volunteers

Micah-Shea McKibben (right) with her daughter Aven and her husband Joey, at last year’s 50th Kentuck Festival of the Arts. Photo courtesy of Micah-Shea McKibben.

UA’s Department of Art and Art History has been fortunate to have a strong support staff of intelligent and inspired instructors who pass on their love of the study of art, as well as their enthusiasm for art in general, in introductory courses for the department.

Alumna and full-time instructor Micah-Shea McKibben is one of those enthusiastic teachers and she is also active in the local arts community. McKibben, who grew up in Creola, Alabama, and graduated with honors from the University of South Alabama, earned a master’s degree in art history from UA in 2016. With concentrations in Renaissance and 20th-century art history, she wrote her thesis on a painting by the 15th-century artist Botticelli. Soon after she graduated, she began teaching, passing on her passion for the history of art, primarily in survey courses that introduce majors and non-majors to the subject.

McKibben lives with her husband and daughter in Tuscaloosa, and since 2018, she has also served in a volunteer position on the steering committee for the Kentuck Festival of the Arts. As the co-coordinator for volunteers. McKibben helps to organize and recruit volunteers to assist with the annual nationally acclaimed arts festival in Northport, Alabama.

Recently we talked to McKibben about her experience of teaching and about her work for the Kentuck Festival.

When you teach students in survey courses, do some of them change their majors to art history? Do you think you’ve influenced anyone to do that?

MM: I think I definitely have. I have had a couple of students who took all my classes. A few students have told me they added art history minors and I had one student who decided to go to graduate school for art history. I think she may be starting grad school this coming fall. Knowing that I helped spark or grow a person’s interest in the arts is the best part of teaching.

How long have you been going to the Kentuck Festival?  

MM: My first time going to the festival was 2014. So, this year will be #7. I missed 2015 and in 2020 the festival was canceled.

Did you volunteer at Kentuck in other capacities before taking on the volunteer coordinating task? 

MM: I started out helping with Kentuck Art Nights (First Thursdays, 5-8 pm). Typically, I was a greeter at one of the buildings.

You were involved somewhat in the arts in Mobile before you came to Tuscaloosa. Were you looking for something similar here when you got involved with Kentuck?

MM: I was. I especially wanted to continue working with the arts in some form or fashion after graduating in 2016. I wanted to get involved in the local art community in Tuscaloosa and Northport.

What’s your favorite part of the volunteer job?    

MM: I am not 100% sure. I do like organizing the shifts and jobs. I guess I like the prep work best. It is straightforward, no people drama, and I enjoy working with our event management system.

How do you like managing people (especially volunteers)? 

MM: Love and hate. I do love organizing, and I excel at taking charge and directing people. But then comes the no-shows or having people who are upset about not having enough volunteers. The actual festival days are pretty stressful if we are low on volunteers.

Do you recruit UA students to work the festival?

MM: We do!  We accept any and all volunteers.  There is no such thing as too many volunteers! We start working on the festival in May, but you can volunteer with Kentuck year-round. I am only in charge of festival volunteers. Students (or anyone) can reach out to Kentuck if you want to help out with Art Nights.