Official Poster Series
The Derby Festival Poster Series began in 1981 as a marketing tool designed to generate pre-season interest in the Derby Festival. Over the years, it’s become a unique symbol of the community. The Festival’s Official Poster Series is nationally recognized and has helped to enhance the careers of artists from around the country.
Past Derby Festival poster designs decorate offices and homes throughout the region. Peter Max’s expressionistic “Bluegrass Pegasus” launched the series in 1981, and a stylistic and geographical mix of artists have been showcased over the years. The signed collector editions continue to significantly increase in value, and the quality of the Poster Series has been recognized worldwide.
Elements of the 2021 image will grace posters, t-shirts, glasses, promotions and more than 100 retail items in celebration of the Derby Festival. The Derby Festival Poster is printed by Derby City Litho.
2021 marks the 41st year of the Official Poster Series. This year’s Official Poster features the work of Louisville artist Andy Perez for the Festival’s 66th annual celebration.
- The Poster Series began as a simple marketing project designed to generate pre-season interest in the Derby Festival in 1981.
- Though primarily an honor for homegrown talent, some internationally renowned artists have designed the poster, including Peter Max, Julius Friedman and Michael Schwab.
- According to local framers, the Peter Max work in 1981 is the most valuable KDF poster.
- C.M. (Sonny) Whittle is the first artist to have three works represented (1985 collaboration with Mark Bird, 1990, 2005).
Several artists have had their works represented multiple times: Jeff Tull (1991, 1995), Mark Bird (1985 collaboration with Sonny Whittle and 1993), Jeaneen & Doreen Barnhart (1994, 1997, 2009, 2014 & 2018), and Karen Boone (1996, 1999).
- The KDF poster has been designed by twins, Jeaneen & Doreen Barnhart five times.
- …and a QUEEN…1989 artist, Elizabeth Paige Penna based her work on her experience as a former Derby Festival Queen
- The Festival series has been a tremendous launching pad for local artists since its change of focus to showcase regional talent in the past ten years (i.e. Jeaneen Barnhart was a virtually unknown graphic designer at a local frame shop when she designed the 1994 poster. Her success with the poster launched her own design firm).
- The Festival Poster Series creates a giant “boom” in the April/May retail sales at area frame shops. It’s a real “Christmas in springtime” as the unveiling creates not only interest in sales of the current poster, but past years’ designs as well.
Louisville is a very “art-aware” city; the Festival poster seems to heighten that interest even in people without a real passion for original art.
- From art galleries and frame shops to the Targets, Dillard’s and beyond, the Derby Festival poster image is included as a backdrop for sales displays across the area — as the image is used to stir customer interest during spring.
- 2006 marked the first time black-and-white photography has been used in the Festival poster. It is also the first time three poster artists have contributed to a poster design.
- The 2000 poster image created by Casey McKinney was turned into a 20’ X 50” outdoor mural painted by Mc Kinney and can be still be seen on the West side of Third Street between Market and Jefferson in Downtown Louisville.
- Artist Andy Perez created the 2021 poster from a collage of recycled material including several past year posters.