Race, Class and the Blue Collar

GAPP and Anderson Churches for Racial Unity present:
Race, Class and the Blue Collar
Presenters: Kelly and Kyle Phelps

Thursday, January 11
7:00 PM
Anderson Hills Christian Church
8119 Clough Pike, 45244

RSVP: www.

The Art and Message of Kyle and Kelly Phelps

The twin brothers, Kyle and Kelly Phelps were born in 1977 to a working-class family whose father was employed in a manufacturing plant in Indiana. As the jobs in the area begin to diminish in the 70’s and 80’s they witnessed the strain on the community and their family as the manufacturing jobs began to disappear. Such losses of good paying jobs for middle-class Americans made for a scenario of loss, pain and destruction to their social community fabric as well as the loss of income. The Phelps brothers witnesses this social upheaval up close and personal as their father lost his jobs, as did many around them. This loss of community and jobs runs deep in Kyle and Kelly’s emotional and intellectual experience and would later be the basis of their artwork.

By the time the brothers graduated from high school it was apparent that there would be no work found in their community. Encouraged by their parents, however, they sought to seek another line of work elsewhere and enrolled in Ball State University in art, graduating in 1996. In 2000 they both completed M.F.A. degrees at the University of Kentucky, majoring in ceramics and sculpture.

Upon graduation Kelly and Kyle became professors of art at the University of Dayton. In 2003 Kelly was invited to join the faculty at Xavier University and now holds the position of Chair of the Art Department there. Kyle is the professor of ceramics at the University of Dayton. During the year of 2003 both brothers were awarded a research sabbatical to produce work reflecting the modern plight of the American worker. Reminiscent of the work of WPA art, their work differed by not just glorifying the American worker but expressing the pain and loss of the blue-collar worker, both white and black. Their figures are deeply emotional, often referencing religious imagery of a shrine or the stations of the cross as the figures struggle in their plight. The Phelps’ sculptural pieces are found today in many collections both in museums, as well as corporate and private collections.

A video discussion of their work can be found at

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