Remembering: L. Brent Kington

Remembering: L. Brent Kington

L. Brent Kington (ca. 1960s)

Metalsmith L. Brent Kington (ca. 1960s) 

It is with great sadness that we announce that metalsmith L. Brent Kington died on February 7th, 2013, in Makanda, Illinois. Kington, a 2000 ACC Gold Medalist, was widely known for his role in the resurgence of blacksmithing as an art form in America. He was 78 years old.

Born in 1934 in Topeka, Kansas, Kington attended the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he received his MFA in 1961. Shortly thereafter he began teaching metalsmithing at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) in the School of Art and Design. Over the course of 35 years, Kington served as professor, head of the metalsmithing program, and director of the School of Art and Design. Upon his retirement from SIUC in 1997, he was named professor emeritus.

Kington's body of work includes a selection of small whimsical and sometimes humorous toys, which demonstrate an exceptional attention to detail and total mastery of the craft. Many of these works were featured in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts throughout the 1960s and '70s. During his extensive career, Kington participated in more than 370 exhibitions, including 22 solo shows, the most recent of which was a retrospective entitled "L. Brent Kington: Mythic Metalsmith." This exhibition traveled extensively between 2007 and 2011 to museums including the Chicago Art Gallery, National Ornamental Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. The retrospective featured more than 45 years of work from public and private collections throughout the United States.

In addition to his ACC Gold Medal, Kington has received the following honors: National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1976- 80); Fellow of the ACC (1978); Trustee, National Ornamental Metal Museum (1987- 2000); Distinguished Member, Society of North American Goldsmiths (1982); Award for Distinguished Service, Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America (1983); ACC Trustee Emeriti (1994); Lifetime Member Award, Artist-Blacksmiths Association of North American (2006); Outstanding Artist Educator Award, Penland School of Crafts (2009), and the Lifetime Achievement Award, Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) (2011). In 2006, an anonymous donor established a permanent L. Brent Kington Chair award at the School of Art and Design at SIUC with a one million dollar endowment.         

L. Brent Kington was a founding member and the first president of SNAG, and according to the SNAG website he influenced a legion of SIUC graduates who have gone on to become significant influences in the field - including Jim Wallace, Phillip Baldwin, Joel Schwartz, Mike Regal, Mary Lee Hu, Rick Smith, and Stephen Yusko. Kington's work can be found in the permanent collections of many prominent museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Society of Contemporary Crafts in Boston, and the Friendship Hall in Nakajo, Japan, as well as others around the world.

Kington is survived by his wife Diana, son Tod Kington, and daughter Brooke Sherritt. Memorials can be made to the Brent Kington Metalsmith Scholarship Endowed Fund at Southern Illinois University Foundation

Click here to read an in-depth interview with Kington conducted by Mary Douglas in 2001 for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.