By Savanah Bandy

Author Ursula K. Le Guin once said, “The creative adult is the child who survived.” 

She could have very well been describing Carthage artist Beth Ytell Kang. Beth started creating as a child and, to this day, her work retains a sense of childlike whimsy and wonder. You can’t help but feel happy when you view her artwork, characterized by loud colors, fun patterns and polka dots. She turns everyday objects into quirky characters, and even abstract lines and shapes seem to take on a life of their own. 

“The world around us is one big inspiration for me,” Beth said. “So often, the unexpected and bold colors inspire me. The people that catch my eye, old buildings and nature fascinate me. Quite often I cannot get what I see out of my head until I start sketching. When I put pen to paper, the creative juices flow.” 

Beth grew up in Carthage, Missouri, where she showed an early affinity for art. 

“My dad was an auctioneer and sold cattle at the Joplin Stockyards. When I was a little girl, I used to go with him on auction days and draw for the guys – a nickel a drawing – who worked the cattle scales and the livestock pens.”

Noticing her innate talent, her parents enrolled her in lessons at Spiva Center for the Arts. Later, in junior high and high school, she took a special class for budding young artists with local artist Virgil Lampton. 

Beth moved to California in 1986, which is where she met her husband, Chris. There, Beth had an illustrious career in the nonprofit sector and Chris worked in Silicon Valley. Now retired, the couple decided to make Carthage their home and made the cross-country move – much to the chagrin of their beloved cat, Oliver – in 2020. Beth said returning to her roots just felt right. 

“No matter where I have lived, I made my way back to Carthage to visit my family. I also stayed connected with a lot of friends during the 40 years I was away. When Chris and I were married in 2002, we continued coming home for visits. Like a lot of people, we always talked about where we would live in retirement. My brother still lives in Carthage and home just pulled at our heart strings.”

Beth quickly got involved in the local arts scene and is now a member of artCentral Carthage, where she volunteers as a docent and shows her work in artCentral member shows.

“I love when people tell me my art makes them feel happy,” she said. “The world around us is full of color. I strive to put color in my life every day and in the lives of those around me. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than having people share what they see in my art. That is what the artistic experience is all about.”