By Josette Keelor
The average baseball fan might not notice what makes each of North America's professional ball fields different, but artist Kelly Walker can tell you. Taking a swing at painting each of 30 stadiums over 30 weeks, April to October, she has come to appreciate what makes each one unique.
For example, Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, is the only stadium that has orange foul poles instead of standard yellow, a holdover from the Mets' previous home at Shea Stadium, Walker said.
Her favorite to paint so far is PNC Park in Pittsburgh, because looking out of the stadium past the outfield, fans can see the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
"I think that's what makes [each one] so unique, is the skyline," said Walker, 51.
Most of the paintings she's completed so far show daytime games, which she said are easier to paint and better for including details of each stadium.
"The White Sox, that's a nighttime painting," she said. "The lights of Chicago will be brighter."
While growing up in Patterson, Ga., Walker would go to three or four Atlanta Braves games a season.
"It just helped me develop a real love for baseball," she said.
When she decided to paint each stadium, "I was thinking there's 30 parks, the season lasts 30 weeks. I thought why not?"
She completed Nationals Park first, since living in Virginia she's had to concede a growing interest in watching Washington's games.
Yankee Stadium likely will be the last one she completes.
"They're my least favorite," she said. "You can quote me on that."
Meeting recently at the Blue Ridge Arts Council, at 305 Main St., Front Royal, Walker said she was ahead of schedule, with 14 paintings completed so far.
A goal of hers is to visit all the ballparks during her lifetime, but since she's made it to only 16 so far, she has relied on photos that other fans have sent her of the other 14.
"I put a call out on my Facebook page," she said. But conversing with other fans online has had unexpected results. She learned of one baseball fan who visited every ballpark last season.
"She did a whole road trip," Walker said.
The 30 paintings will hang in a show at Blue Ridge Arts Council during the World Series, Oct. 23-31. The show will be called "Painted Diamonds: 30 Parks in 30 Weeks" and will tie in with another exhibit being featured at the time -- "Our Town" -- by including a painting of the façade of Bing Crosby Stadium in Front Royal.
"We'll have a reception," Walker said. "We'll have peanuts and Cracker Jacks and hotdogs. ... a whole baseball theme."
Walker was able to fund this project through Kickstarter, which helps artists of any kind in need of funds to connect with donors online at www.kickstarter.com. Funding on Kickstarter is all or nothing. Projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money, and Walker said the program helps support projects that otherwise would not happen.
Those who have helped fund Walker's project will win rewards based on their level of donation, she said. The greatest supporters will go home with original paintings of the ballparks, and she said eight have been spoken for so far.
"I will also have prints of each one," Walker said. "Part of the reward is a little book and facts of each one -- different information about the team and each park."
Walker started painting when she was 30, building upon an interest formed from watching televised painter Bob Ross.
"He made everyone think that they could do it," Walker said.
"It's not anything magical, you don't have to be born with a gift," she said. "Anyone can paint."
She's done ambitious before, but never on such a time frame as this one, and as far as she knows, no one ever before has painted all 30 ballparks in one season. She even called the office of the commissioner of baseball to check.
"They couldn't find anyone who's ever done it either," she said. "That makes it a little different."
For more information about Kelly Walker's "Painted Diamonds: 30 Parks in 30 Weeks," visit lifeofadailypainter.com.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org