In the Spotlight: Key and KAY

Low Key Arts Executive Director Sonny Kay brings an international perspective to the Hot Springs Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival.

Photography by Sara Reeves | Styled by Heather Buckley

If the world is a book, then Low Key Arts Executive Director Sonny Kay is an extremely well read individual. Having grown up on three continents, Sonny had logged more miles by the time he was fifteen than many will in a lifetime. As an adult, his artistic and professional adventures also sparked extensive world travel, from Egypt and Ethiopia to Canada and Mexico. Though he’s quick to point out there’s still much to explore. Sonny’s resume reflects an eclectic tenure across creative industries: he’s spent time as a graphic designer and owner of his own record label, Gold Standard Laboratories, as well as a member of various bands.

It was while on tour with one of these bands that Sonny first encountered the Spa City. He struck up a friendship with Low Key Arts Artistic Director Bobby Missile, who would later reach out to Sonny regarding the executive director position. Sonny’s depth + breadth of cultural experience and natural open-mindedness make him a key asset for this arts organization.

Established in 2005, Low Key Arts facilitates personal growth through artistic expression. It hosts a variety of programs – including KUHS Community Radio, Arkansas Shorts: A Night of Short Films and its popular independent music festival, Valley of the Vapors. “Low Key Arts provides space to appreciate the endeavors of all kinds of artists from around the world; it’s a cultural exchange that is rich and inspiring,” says Shea Childs, director and co-founder. “My desire is for a performance to encourage a young artist in our area that their musical or cinematic ideas are worth pursuing.”

Sonny’s currently gearing up for his first VOV as ED. The festival has welcomed thousands of artists from across the globe – a cultural and artistic melting pot that makes him feel perfectly at home. We caught up with Sonny to get his thoughts on travel, life and Low Key Arts.

What do you enjoy most about travel? “There’s an excitement in the newness of things, but also for me it’s really fascinating the sort of anthropology aspect. Just going and experiencing different cultures, different forms of visual and other kinds of communication and different modes of dress, that kind of thing…I’ve always embraced the opportunity to experience as many different things as I can, and so I think that’s evident in my art.”

If you could live anywhere, where would you like to live? “I would really, really love to live in Japan. I find the Japanese people as a whole really welcoming, friendly and enthusiastic. It’s a very enchanting place, very aesthetically pleasing and designed, which certainly speaks to my priorities. I just find it a very noble and evolved culture in a lot of ways.”

What value does VOV add to the community? “I think anything that broadens peoples’ awareness of the human condition and other versions, if you will, of reality and life experience, are valuable things. Any place that you go in the world that’s a melting pot or a cross section of different kinds of people and experiences just inherently becomes a more interesting place.”

What do you enjoy most about Low Key Arts? “I think Hot Springs as a whole is very focused on the arts and puts its money where its mouth is, so to speak, in a way that – in my experience – is pretty unusual and pretty remarkable. I love being at the center of this hive of activity. I love joining forces with other organizations here in town…to try and further a common goal.”

Inviting Arkansas
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