Local artist Penny Hackett paints her life story

Debbie Snapp, ECB Publishing, Inc.

Penny Stiff Hackett is a local artist with a fine arts degree from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She became a member of Jefferson Art Gallery shortly after moving to Monticello in 2009. She has always enjoyed the world of art, creating crafts and making beautiful things-- even as a child growing up in the small town of Prospect, VA.
She can remember as early as third grade when she used a mustard green flower for the color yellow on a project she was working on. She didn't have a yellow crayon so she used her imagination and rubbed the flower into her artwork. She recounted her summers as a teenager when she would make necklaces from the seeds of freshly eaten watermelons.
“Looking back on it, it was exhilarating to have an end product that you created from natural elements. Growing up on the farm, you learn to use what you had instead of buying everything. Curiosity sparked the ‘what if?’ question that made me turn plants into art materials,” said Hackett.
It was her high school teacher, Lee Taylor, who encouraged her to further her education into fine arts. “She saw something in me and in my talent that I didn’t see in myself. Ms. Taylor pushed me to pursue a career in art.” The push led her to teach secondary art for 30 years at Prince Edward County High School in Farmville, VA.
Many years later, it is her 92-year-old mother who keeps Hackett’s inspiration flowing by listening to her childhood stories of growing up in the 1920s and 1930s in rural Virginia.
Known as a ‘visual storyteller,’ Hackett primarily works with acrylics and mixed media. She works from home mostly, visiting with her fellow gallery members and friends occasionally to work on art projects. She does enjoy decorating the gallery for the upcoming members showings in June and December.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 15, a parade and birthday celebration will be held on the streets of Monticello. Hackett, along with other Jefferson Arts members, will participate in the parade. Their entry will be decorated with scenes of Martin Luther King Jr. and other related topics. Hackett will be displaying a portrait collage of MLK Jr. commemorating his life, contributions to the world and quotes on injustice and equality.
Her display is just one piece from her artwork collection created over the years. Her first solo art show, 'Visions of Voices: A Retrospective Journey,' will be on display at Jefferson Arts Gallery through the month of February, with an opening reception with Hackett on Saturday, February 3 at 2 p.m.