Inspiring Figure

Community honors Madison, Ind., legendary artist Knoble

He has inspired, taught many of today’s local artists

(March 2020) – Street kids, playing music for coins near Wrigley Field in Chicago, were the inspiration for one of Lou Knoble’s largest paintings. The bright colors, happy faces and musical instruments convey the energy of the street jazz as it comes to life on the 5x6-foot oil painting.
Knoble, now 89, still has happy memories of his great trip to Chicago to see a Cubs game with fellow Knights of Columbus members. But it was the sight and sound of those kids on the street that were the most memorable to him.
That iconic Knoble painting was recently donated by the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County for display in the halls of the Fine Arts Academy at Madison Consolidated High School. Knoble’s contributions during his tenure as art teacher and department head from 1964-1994 at MCHS will be visible to all current and future students.
The painting was presented during the Feb. 1 home basketball game at MCHS. This painting is an example of Knoble’s “diamonds and checks” period, explained Bill Barnes, president and CEO of the foundation. After viewing many of Knoble’s paintings, this street jazz painting was the perfect selection.
“Lou is a huge fan of jazz music,” Barnes said.  When Knoble was telling Barnes about the inspiration for the painting, Knoble paused and said to Barnes, “I wonder where those kids are now.” 

Photo by Sharyn Whitman

Madison, Ind., artist Lou Knoble celebrates Fat Tuesday with family, friends, fellow artists and former art students Feb. 25 at Thomas Family Winery in Madison, Ind.

That statement exactly reflects what Cara Fox, owner of The Little Golden Fox in Madison, remembers about Knoble, who was her high school art teacher. “He was always encouraging in all areas – art, sports and academics. He was amazing. I couldn’t wait to get to his class each day. He inspired me to push the limits as an artist. He is one of those teachers you never forget. Another amazing thing is that he always remembered all of us.”
Madison continued to celebrate Knoble at the Thomas Family Winery on Feb 25 during its 23rd annual Fat Tuesday party. “You have to wonder what the art community in Madison today would be without Lou Knoble and Hal Davis,” winery co-owner Steve Thomas said to the crowd. The winery has displayed an annual exhibit of Knoble’s paintings for about 15 years, culminating at the celebration.
Knoble explained that he started painting as a second-grade student. His dad worked for Bird’s Wallpaper in Buffalo, N.Y. Charles Birdfield, a famous watercolorist, also worked there.
“He saw my work and encouraged me when I was in the third grade,” Knoble said. Growing up near the Museum of Science in Buffalo, he and his brothers attended many classes there. After graduation, Knoble enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and received his honorable discharge in March 1955. Next, he enrolled at Southern Illinois University and then transferred to New York State Teachers College.
After teaching for seven years in New York, Knoble came to Madison. He taught for 30 years at MCHS and another nine years at Hanover College. Knoble said he has always preferred to paint with oils. He said he is still painting, and his current subject is a horse and rider. He uses photographs of images he likes. “Then the art and design come together in my head to create the painting,” he said. 
Knoble is also gratified to have served as a coach. “When I came to Madison, I also had the opportunity to coach cross country because they needed some success down here. We put together a 20-man team, which gave us two teams. We worked hard and went to the state finals twice,” he said proudly.
“Coach Knoble has influenced the sports and arts communities of Madison for almost half a century. His passion for both is undeniable, and it is great to see the community recognize his influence with the creation of the Lou Knoble Gift of Art Fund at the Community Foundation.
“I hope others will join me in supporting this fund that will benefit students of the Fine Arts Academy at Madison Consolidated High School,” said Madison Mayor Bob Courtney. The fund will support art enrichment experiences and special programs for the students.

• Contributions (cash or checks, designated Lou Knoble Fund) can be dropped off at the MCHS Office or dropped off or mailed to the Community Foundation at 416 W. St. in Madison. For more information, contact Bill Barnes at (812) 265-3327.  

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