Hobart Brown was born in Hess, Oklahoma, to a fifteen-year-old mother who migrated across country to California on the back of her husband's motorcycle. He later described it as his classic Okie experience, mirroring the great migration captured in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and other stories of the Dust Bowl years.
Brown went to high school in Los Angeles a couple of classes after Marilyn Monroe, whom he remembered by her real name and describes as "a quiet, plain little thing - not at all what she became later."
After a stint as an airplane mechanic with the U.S. Army in Cambrai - Fritsh Kaserne Darmstadt, Germany, and time spent running hot rods with his friends on local empty roads, he decided in 1962 to become an artist and moved to Humboldt County, California. Arriving in 1962 with his wife and two sons, he immediately opened the first of several Hobart Galleries; the first in Eureka, California, others in Trinidad and finally Ferndale, California.
Over the years, the Hobart Galleries has represented more than 150 local artists - launching several careers and providing much needed exposure to younger artists by adding them to an established stable of better-known names.
Hobart had four children, three boys and one girl.
Hobart was instrumental in helping Morris Graves settle in his beautiful home nestled in the hills outside Loleta, California.
During northern hemisphere winters until 2006, Hobart migrated to Australia, where he was first artist-in-residence at Happ's Winery, later at Leeuwin Wine Estates in Margaret River, Western Australia where his public welding studio on their patio and display of his art in the winery itself were popular stops on the hourly tours.
In 2006-07, Hobart was unable to travel to Australia as his increasing debility due to the advancement of his particularly severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. Following several months of being in and out of treatment facilities, he suffered a stroke on May 17, 2007. He died of pneumonia in the Redwood Memorial Hospital on November 7, 2007.
Hobart's gallery was sold in January, 2009 to local business owners.
Kinetic Sculpture Races
In 1969, Hobart started the Kinetic Sculpture Race, almost by accident when he modified his son's tricycle to a five-wheeled, decorated "Pentacycle" and another local artist and gallery owner, Jack Mays, challenged him to a race down Main Street on Mother's Day. Raceday came, so did ten other challengers. Neither Hobart nor Jack won the race, that honor goes to Bob Brown (no relation) piloting his Kinetic Turtle. Hobart was acclaimed "the Glorious Founder" of the race.
The races continue. 2013 was the 45th running - although the race is no longer just down the street. It now is the longest human powered sculpture race in the world. The course covers approximately 42 miles of sand, water, pavement, hills, more water, roads and freeways from Arcata to Ferndale.
Meanwhile, Hobart continued to sculpt and start other races. About ten Kinetic Races occur every year, from Baltimore to Western Australia, the spirit of "Adults having fun so children want to get older" infects individuals everywhere it lands.
His later years were spent battling a disfiguring and crippling rheumatoid arthritis, while his spirit — and creative energies — remained undiminished. He continued his twice yearly peregrinations from north to south in search of the warmest, driest times of the year.
Exhibits, Collectors and Awards
A few of Hobart's many exhibits have included: White House and Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Ronald Reagan Museum, BC Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA; LA City Museum; Palm Springs Museum; Leeuwin Estates, Australia; and the Oscar Mayer Museum.
Hobart's collectors include President Ronald Reagan, Johnny Carson, Congressman Don Clausen, LA City Museum, U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, Riverboat Casino Las Vegas, California Department of Transportation, the College of the Redwoods and more than 500 individuals and companies.
Hobart created the Republican Party Perpetual Trophy by commission from the Party.
Over the years, Hobart received many awards including listings in Who's Who Worldwide, being made an honorary Rotarian and annual proclamations from both the Eureka and Arcata City Councils.
Not unsurprising for such a tireless showman and local booster, Hobart was covered by a full range of media including:
- Television - ABC, CBS, CNN, Disney, NBC Today Show, Nickelodeon, Weird Houses and Weird Wheels, Game Show Network, and more.
- Movies - "It will Have Blinking Eyes" an award-winning documentary about the Kinetic Sculpture Race by China Blue films shown at the Sundance Film Festival.
- Print - National Geographic World, Popular Mechanics, San Francisco Chronicle, Smithsonian Magazine, The Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, The Age, Perth Australia Time, Times-Standard, Arcata Eye, North Coast Journal, Humboldt Independent and The Eureka Reporter.
- Radio - broadcaster for six years and many interviews.
- Kinetic Sculpture Racing, A Complete Guide: Founder Hobart Brown Tells All - a guide to Kinetic Sculpture Racing and its underlying philosophy. ISBN 1-879312-07-7
- Author and co-author of numerous articles in newspapers and local journals.
- "Hobart Brown, Kinetic Sculpture Race founder, dies at 74". San Jose Mercury News. November 8, 2007.
- McClellan, Dennis, Hobart Brown, 73; artist founded wacky yearly sculpture race, Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2007, accessed June 24, 2013
- Faulkner, Jessie (2009-09-01). "Ferndale business owners buy Hobart Galleries". Times-Standard. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
- "Mediocrity Trumps in Oddball Race". Wired. April 29, 2003.
- "Hobart Brown - A Life in Photos". Retrieved 2008-03-01.
- Welte, Jim, Kinetic King: Novato's Dave Rempe part of a winning trio in Humboldt's sculpture vehicle race, San Jose Mercury News, May 18, 2009, accessed 24 June, 2013
- "Kinetic Sculpture Race". National Public Radio. April 29, 2001.
- Greenson, Thadeus, Kinetic Sculpture Race founder Hobart Brown dies at 74 , Eureka Times-Standard, November 8, 2007, accessed June 24, 2013
- Moncour, Michael, Quotations by Author: Hobart Brown, 2013, accessed June 24, 2013