'Festival King' Jason Flack looking to put a little color in Johnson City

Jonathan Roberts • Oct 17, 2019 at 10:00 PM

You may not have heard his name, but that’s fine. Jason Flack would rather you know his art.

And if you frequent Johnson City’s festivals — including Saturday’s “Tell It to Me,” the Johnson City Sessions 90th Anniversary Celebration — there’s a good chance you’ve seen his art, or recognized his distinct style — it’s one of the reasons he’s been dubbed Johnson City’s “festival king.”

Flack, however, isn’t in it for the accolades or titles; he simply just wants to make art, make an impact on people who see his art and highlight his city. It’s why he jumped at the opportunity to be part of Johnson City’s sesquicentennial trains project, not knowing he was being compensated for his work.

As he’ll happily tell anyone, it’s all about bringing art to the public, the rest of it is just icing on the cake for one of Johnson City’s premier artists.

Flack briefly:

Favorite Star Wars movie: “Empire Strikes Back”

Favorite color: Bright yellow

Favorite Tri-Cities restaurant: “I’m a native here, and I have a lot of fond memories from Italian Pizza Pub.”

Favorite music genre/artist: Hip-Hop; Bob Marley

Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

How would you best describe your style of art?

I let the people tell me what they think of it, and I’ve gathered it’s vibrant and happy and all that, but I’d also like to think it’s in motion. Kind of a blend between cartoon-y and abstract — I like to capitalize on being happy and refreshing. It’s “be original, fresh and bright,” really.

Who’s your biggest artistic inspiration?

I would say just knowing my mom is a talented painter, and knowing she had those skills, was like having a superhero in the house, and for more reasons than that, but it was just really cool to know she could do that. Also, Keith Haring. I think he passed in the (1990s), but I feel I’m still connected to him in some way. To me, he’s in the same realm of Michael Jordan in basketball. I draw inspiration for my style and impact from Keith Haring. 

How did it feel to be chosen to paint a sesquicentennial train, and be a part of Johnson City’s history?

I’ve never thought of it like that, wow, I’m a part of history, that’s cool — that’s what it’s about. Honestly, I was and still am very grateful for it. It’s a humbling experience, and I did it thinking “This is for the city turning a buck-fifty,” I didn’t even know we were getting paid. To be selected, and be a part of history, just makes me want more. It’s a wonderful thing.

How does it feel to see the city start to embrace art, something that’s really only started recently?

To be even a drop of water in this wave (of art) that’s coming, is a blessing. I’ve said before that I just want to be part of a movement that brings the wave in. Art has given me a purpose — the purpose, the life purpose. It feeds my soul.

What’s your advice to artists who feel they can’t make it in Johnson City?

I’ve been there, and I’m still there, so if you have that attitude it’s understood — but feel that way and turn it into motivation. I would say two things: Keep that attitude, but turn that into motivation. It’s easy to say, and it’s not easy to do. Just be proud of your art and know that your art is unique, but use what’s available to you and come out with your art. Network; creativity puts you in the movement, but networking keeps you in it.

While he doesn’t have a website, you can find Flack’s art on Instagram (@artbyjasonflack) or contact him through his email, [email protected] And with this weekend bringing another festival to Johnson City, you can count on finding him in the downtown streets, sharing his love of art with anyone who happens to stroll by.

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