University Relations and Communications

Art professor's kite reputation lifting him to new heights

October 19, 2009



John Pollock, Professor of Art, 657-2985
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


After invitations to Italy and Australia, John Pollock wins four awards at American Kitefliers convention


Dr. Pollock with his award-winning kiteMSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Most artists who work in paint would rather not see their work buffeted about by wind or drenched in sunlight. 


But those artists aren’t John Pollock.


A professor of art at Montana State University Billings for 35 years, Pollock loves nothing more than to see his paintings gently plying the elements on the end of a kite string. A longtime kiting enthusiast, Pollock hand-paints fabric with elaborate and colorful designs and showcases them around the world.


Lately, his art is taking his reputation to new heights… literally. 


In March, he was invited to Cervia, Italy where he attended “Artevento.” Artevento is organized by Claude Capelli, a well-known Italian artist, and is the world’s largest gathering of artists who make kites as an art form.


In September he was invited to be part of the “Festival of the Winds” on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. He gave a lecture and presentation to the Australian Kiteflyers Society about his painting processes and his ideas contained in paintings that fly as kites. He also flew his art at the event, which was attended by about 30,000 spectators.


But the biggest honors came this month when Pollock returned from the 32nd annual American Kitefliers Association convention held in Rochester, Minn. He took four awards, including the prestigious Lee Toy Memorial Kite Artist of the Year Award.


It was a surprise to the soft-spoken Pollock, who traveled to Minnesota as a guest presenter, not an honoree.


“I went to the convention for the purpose of presenting a painting demonstration workshop and entering one of my paintings into the Grand National Kitemakers Championships,” he said. “I returned with four of the top awards.”


Awards won by Pollock include:

  • First Place in the category of Bowed Kites. Each kite is judged in four separate criteria. The criteria are craftsmanship, structural design, flight and visual appeal. To win a kite must receive the highest total score of all the kites entered into that category.
  • Grand National Championship. This trophy goes to the kite that receives the highest score in all 11 categories. This year, there were more than 60 kites were entered in all of the categories.
  • Members Choice Award. This is voted on by all the members of the organization that are attending the convention.
  • Lee Toy Memorial Kite Artist of the Year Award. This award is not part of the annual competition, but is selected before the convention by nomination and committee vote. It is one of three honored and special awards given by the organization.  The award is named after Lee Toy, an author, artist and beloved kiter who is credited for inspiring others to use various art forms in kiting.

The award recognizes an artist’s body of original work, their commitment to kites as art and their ability to inspire others in recognizing the uniqueness of kites as art. The criteria says the award “demonstrates a willingness to teach, explore and innovate in promoting kites within the AKA membership or the broader community.”


Pollock enjoys using color and whimsy in his kite art. His most recently completed project is a kite titled “The Caretaker of the Legend Taking on the Role of the Raven.” The hand-painted kite 4 feet wide by 8 feet tall and features a likeness of the artist wearing a raven’s beak.


PHOTO ABOVE: John Pollock with recently completed kite, “The Caretaker of the Legend Taking on the Role of the Raven.”