About the film

This is a film about art, religion, redemption, and rock and roll…all because of a man named Howard Finster. Finster was an icon, who influenced the artistic endeavors of R.E.M., Talking Heads, B-52s, Indigo Girls, Blackhawk, Steve Penley, Eddie Owens Martin, R.A. Miller, Keith Haring, R. Land, and many others. After his death, his life’s work, Paradise Garden, sadly feel into obscurity. After receiving a series of grants, the Paradise Garden Foundation was founded to rehabilitate his life’s work. This film followed the almost 3 year renovation of his Garden and the creation of what will become his legacy.

Chris Frantz:
Chris Frantz is an American musician and record producer. He was the drummer for both Talking Heads and the Tom Tom Club. The Talking Heads mid-80s output — in particular the album/film combination projects Stop Making Sense (1984) and True Stories (1986) — secured their position as one of the most popular acts of the decade. What was initially presented as a temporary break after the release of the album Naked in 1988 had become the permanent dissolution of the band by 1991; by this time Frantz and Weymouth had resumed work as Tom Tom Club, having already issued Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom (1988) and Dark Sneak Love Action (1991). As the 90s progressed, the two extended their activities to include production work for performers that ranged from Shirley Manson to Ziggy Marley. In 2000, Tom Tom Club returned to action with The Good, the Bad, and the Funky. The band continues to record new records and tour both domestically and internationally. Frantz and the members of the band Talking Heads commissioned Howard Finster to do a painting, which would later become their album cover for Little Creatures.

Mike Mills:
Mike MIlls is an American multi-instrumentalist and composer who was a founding member of the alternative rock group R.E.M. Though known primarily as a bass guitarist, backing vocalist, and pianist, his musical repertoire includes also keyboards, guitar, and percussion instruments. He contributed to a majority of the band’s musical compositions. Mike Mills visited Paradise Garden for the first time when filming R.E.M.’s music video, “Radio Free Europe.” He subsequently visited Howard Finster a number of times over the years until his death in 2001.
Mills continues to write music and perform with friends on various projects.

Amy Ray:
Amy Ray is an American singer-songwriter and member of the contemporary folk duo Indigo Girls. She also pursues a solo career and has released six albums under her own name, and founded a record company, Daemon Records. Ray is also an activist involved in multiple political and social causes, including gay rights, low-power broadcasting, women’s rights, indigenous struggles, gun control, environmental protection and the anti-death penalty movement among others. She has made several trips to Chiapas, Mexico to support the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. In 1986, Ray graduated from Emory with majors in English and Religion. During her early career, she visited Howard Finster at Paradise Garden. Ray recounts many young artists in the Southeast making an almost pilgrimage to the Garden to meet the grandfather of Southern Folk Art.

Steve Penley:
teve Penley is a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee and has been an artist, since he was very young. Penley was raised in Macon, Georgia and was heaviliy influenced in his youth by pop culutre. He had the opportunity to meet Howard Finster, while attending Art School at the University of Georgia. He later spent time at the school of Visual Arts in New York, where he picked up on pop art’s imagery, but his work lacked a sarcastic edge. He chooses subjects that are imprinted in the viewer’s mind and manipulates them with color, brush strokes, and added details to give them a fresh spin. During his time at the University of Georgia, Penley made a pilgrimage to Paradise Garden in Summerville, Georgia. He shares stories of meeting Howard Finster and how the artist in

Spencer Drate:
Spencer Drate, an award-winning Creative Director, Designer, and Author, who has designed album covers for 13 inductees in the rock n’ roll hall of fame, as well as the ‘who shot rock n’ roll show” now on tour. In addition Drate’s music design is in MOMA, Brooklyn Museum, Cooper Hewitt Museum and Major Galleries. The Drate and Salavetz team has published 21 pop-culture books. Their clients include U2, Bon Jovi, The Ramones ,Talking Heads,The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Anthrax, The Dead Boys, Billy Squier, The Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Joseph Arthur, Bob Marley, and many more.

Henry Paul
Henry Paul caught the ear of a CBS record executive in New York who got him an audition for then Epic Records A&R director Don Ellis. Henry moved to Nashville, where he joined the country music band, Blackhawk. Blackhawk recorded their music video for their hit song, “That’s just about right,” at Paradise Garden. It was a ground breaking music video for the country music industry. Howard Finster was commissioned by the record company to do three individual paintings of each of the band members, as well as a group portrait. Paul recounts his experience shooting the music video and meeting the legendary folk artist.

Dave Robbins
For more than 25 years, Dave Robbins has shared his tremendous musical talent by proxy, writing songs that have fueled the careers of country and pop artists who illuminate his body of work through the refracted light of their own interpretations. In 1983, he penned his first #1 hit, “All My Life,” which crossover king Kenny Rogers took to the top of the AC charts. Robbins soon became instrumental in the success of country band Restless Heart, composing several of their hits including “The Bluest Eyes In Texas,” which was a #1 hit in 1988 and remains a country standard today. He is a member of the band Blackhawk and worked with Howard Finster to create the video for their song, “That’s just about right.”

Michael Pillot:
Michael Pillot is the president of Pirogue Pictures in New York and has produced a diverse range of motion pictures, as well as worked with a number of prominent musicians, including Pink Floyd. Among his films include, The Who Live, Featuring the Rock Opera Tommy, Billy Connolly: Pale Blue Scottish Person, Free to Laugh: A Comedy and Music Special for Amnesty International, Andrew Dice Clay: No Apologies, UFC 1: The Beginning, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe: An Evening of Yes Music Plus, UFC VII: Brawl in Buffalo, and Rolling Rock Town Fair Featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers. He is a collector of Howard Finster’s work and a native of Louisiana. He talks about the impact of Southern Folk Art and his own collection.

Kenyon Phillips:
Dubbed “the love child of Luther Vandross and Steven Tyler” by pop culture commentator Michael Musto, Kenyon Phillips knows how to put on a show. The wildly theatrical singer, songwriter, actor, writer, model, dancer, and DJ has been busy “being there, doing that” all over New York City since the days of Y2K. In addition to founding and fronting the bands Roma! and Unisex Salon and contributing lead vocals to Thrill A Minute, Kenyon has written and produced songs for Amy Poehler, Joey Arias, Raven O, and Sherry Vine; moonlighted as emcee of notorious vaudeville nightclub The Box; performed with renowned “punk ballerina” and choreographer Karole Armitage; and appeared as a silhouetted dancer in multiple campaigns for the Apple iPod.

Susan Crawley:
Susan Mitchell Crawley joined the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia in 2003. Her traveling retrospective exhibition of the sculpture of the Georgia wood carver Ulysses Davis is currently touring the United States. Her previous exhibitions include “Dreamscapes: Imaginary Landscapes from the Folk Art Collection” (2009), “Louis Monza: From Politics to Paradise” (2007), and “Southern Vernacular: Nineteenth Century Folk Art,” an ongoing installation of vernacular furniture, pottery, and textiles from the High’s permanent collection. She curated a 2005 exhibition of the early work of the self-taught artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, which published Crawley’s associated monograph, “The Life and Art of Jimmy Lee Sudduth.” Her other publications include “The Treasure of Ulysses Davis” (2008), “Words and Music: Seeing Traylor in Context,” in “Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-Taught Art” (2007), and the catalogue and artists’ biographies in “Let it Shine: Self-Taught Art from the T. Marshall Hahn Collection” (2000). Crawley received the M.A. in Art History from Georgia State University in January 2005. She attended Agnes Scott College and received the B.A., with Distinction, in Art with Emphasis in Museum Studies from Rhodes College.

Jordan Poole:

Poole is Executive Director of the Paradise Garden Foundation and is a native of Chattooga County and holds both a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Historic Preservation.  Poole’s Education was at the renowned Art College, Savannah College of Art and Design where he was able to learn about preservation surrounded by other creative arts majors.  Poole has worked with over 40 of the top endangered sites throughout the State of Georgia as part of his work with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation in cooperation with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He also brings 2  years experience in historic preservation work at George Washington’s Mount Vernon where he managed restoration activities.

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