Bossier library visitors will likely do a double-take when they see a car completely
covered in purple fur parked in front of two Bossier Parish Library branches on June 13.

Houston author Cathey Graham Nickell—a native of Shreveport—will present her award-winning children’s picture book, “Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn,” at two branches of the Bossier libraries. A special art car—called Penelope and owned by Felizabeth Smiley of Houston—will be on site for each visit. After Nickell gives her colorful presentation, she will teach children how to finger-knit with just some yarn and their hands. Finger-knitting is a fun, interactive activity requiring no clickety-clackity needles and no prior experience. Kids will also get to experience the art car at each stop.

The library system’s summer theme this year is “All Together Now,” and each community event is free and open to the public.

Nickell’s visit schedule is as follows:
AULDS BRANCH: 10 am, Tuesday, June 13 – 3950 Wayne Ave, Bossier City, LA 71112
BENTON BRANCH: 2 pm, Tuesday, June 13 – 115 Courthouse Dr, Benton, LA 71006

Art cars, which are plentiful in Houston (but not so much in Shreveport-Bossier!), were the inspiration for Nickell’s first story, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car.” Nickell’s second picture book, “Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn,” also shares a playful outside-the-box message about outsider art—which she explains is “the kind of folk art that you cannot hang on a wall.” A new and little-heard-of craze called “yarn bombing” inspired her second children’s book. Yarn bombing is a type of urban
street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than chalk or paint. The practice is believed to have originated with Texas knitters trying to find a creative way to use their leftover and unfinished knitting projects, but it has since spread worldwide, with artists decorating traffic signs, statues, telephone poles, and more.

PENELOPE is the name of Felizabeth Smiley’s whimsical art car, inspired by the 1958 novelty song written and performed by Sheb Wooley: The Purple People Eater. Underneath all that purple fur and silicon glue is a 2016 Hyundai Veloster. Smiley explains that—like Arthur Zarr, the main character in Nickell’s book—she has acquired a whole new group of friends in Houston and beyond, all thanks to her wacky art car.

Wondering what an art car is? An art car is a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. Art cars are often driven and owned by their creators, who are sometimes referred to as “cartists.” Most art car artists are ordinary people with no artistic training. They’re largely self-taught and self-funded, though some mainstream trained artists have also worked in the art car medium. Most agree that creating and driving an art car daily is its own
reward. And if, like Smiley, the art car is the owner’s primary or only vehicle, they are what’s called a “daily driver.”

Nickell’s story is a little bit different because she doesn’t even own a decorated vehicle—at least, not yet. A few years ago, while driving through Houston traffic, she was zapped with the creative idea to write a book for children about art cars. In 2016, “Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car” became a reality. Today, Nickell presents her books in front of school children throughout Houston, Louisiana, and beyond, having done more than 100 author visits to date. Through her author presentations, she spreads an artsy message about writing, publishing, creativity, and inspiration.

Nickell lived in Shreveport for most of her life, graduating from C.E. Byrd High School in 1981. She holds a journalism degree from Baylor University and a Master of Arts from LSU-Shreveport. Nickell moved from Shreveport to Houston in the late 90s, where she raised four children with her husband, Kevin. Learn more at www.catheynickell.com.

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