After completing her studies at the School of the Art Institute the artist worked as an illustrator. As the 1976 Bicentennial approached there was a fever of interest in American history. In 1971 she was asked to illustrate a book on the American Revolutionary War period which required her to travel to historic locations to paint the actual scenes. As her travels crossed and crisscrossed the paths of the patriots, she entered their lives and was forever caught in the inescapable skeins of history and thrust into the role of historical painter. What began as a single assignment has grown over the past 40 plus years into the largest collection of American historical-site paintings ever created by a single artist. The American Legacy Collection is a dramatic panorama of this country’s historical places and its defining moments. Kay Smith’s original watercolors chronicle 500 years of the American experience and preserve with an artist’s palette our American heritage.
In 1994, she was given a lifetime designation as Artist Laureate of Illinois in recognition of the contribution the American Legacy makes to our heritage and history.She has painted each of the 250 works in the Collection on site of the historic monuments, battlefields, landmarks, and national and cultural events. Through these insightful, engaging watercolors, she presents a powerful narrative of American life – from the cheerful Colonial Kitchen at Sturbridge to the quiet sorrow of Vicksburg Battlefield to the proud Relighting of the Statue of Liberty.