Circus Kirk

Circles within circles within…circuses.

When I decided to paint this wonderful old truck that now lives out it’s final days on the farm just over the hill I had no idea that it had one more curtain call in its life of serving show business.

The painting was on exhibit  for the show in York last  November and I was surprised when a line formed of people telling me that they knew the truck, knew of the circus, were IN the circus and each had a fountain of memories about the good old days in which that truck played such a big part.

Since then, many of the performers have been in touch. They have a Facebook page which archives the history of this small town summer circus which was started by Dr. Charlies W. “Doc” Boas who was a professor at York College, here in PA. (Some of their anecdotes are posted below)

The painting is now on exhibition at the Granary Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard, which you all know is where a good portion of my creative energy and inspiration comes from.

Recently, I’ve made a conscious decision to step outside of my Pennsylvania studio more often and paint what I see in my own backyard. The truck is something we pass daily as it rests in the iconic fields of corn and so the muses called.

So, with the synergy and symmetry that lights my way these days, it was no surprise to read from one of the circus alumnae that this very truck was on the ferry over 3 decades ago bringing the Circus Kirk family to the Vineyard. The first circus to play on the island. My friend Ted remembers the dancing ladies !

A great big thank you to all the members who have taken the time to write and share their stories with me…

here are just a few…

From Charlie Boas (son of the founder) –

It ran for ten years in the 60’s and 70’s.  It was the creation of my
father, Dr. Charles W. “Doc” Boas.  It was staffed with almost all
college and high school students and usually only played in the
summers.  It was based outside of East Berlin, PA in Adams County.  Most
of the youth who worked for the show mark it as a major event in their
lives, and my dad is sort of a revered cult figure.  Dad passed away in
Stewartstown about ten years ago.  The truck you depicted is sort of an
icon, toiling away in a field outside of York.
Your painting gives it a wistful quality which I find to be
bittersweet.  The circus was a big part of my life during my formative
years and sometimes I feel like that part of me is indeed out to pasture.
Incidentally, one of the big adventures we had on the show was the time
we loaded the whole show on the ferry and played a date on Martha’s
Vineyard.  What a great audience, and what fun to take all the trucks on
the ferry.  I recall it took two or three loads to get them all over.
We were the first circus ever to play there.

Thanks for making the painting, and thanks for letting me ramble.

From Jeffrey Gabel –

In 1971, I was fresh out of college and my first job in show business was with Circus Kirk, a student summer tented circus out of East Berlin, PA which is 15 miles northeast from Gettysburg in rural Adams County.  In addition to performing as a clown, I drove the stock truck in your elegiac painting “Out to Pasture.” I also painted the circus logo on the truck.  It’s amazing the truck has survived because it was already ancient in 1971 as was the entire fleet of Circus Kirk vehicles.  Everyday, I loaded the truck with five ponies, one obstinate palomino horse by the name of Golden Rocket, his arch enemy Bama the Lama, Munch the Wonder Goat, a the mongrel dog act, and Pork Chop the trained pig.  Talk about a menagerie!  And those poor animals had to suffer my jerky driving because I learned to drive a stick shift on that truck so my shifting was anything but smooth.  What stories I could tell you about the adventures in that truck, traveling the highways and byways of rural Pennsylvania and Ohio.  And the breakdowns!

3 thoughts on “Circus Kirk

  1. in response to email inquiries…yes, prints are available of this painting for the Circus Kirk extended family. Please contact me via email at hnartisan@comcast.net…or leave a comment here on the blog and I’ll send along info. Thanks,Heather

  2. I was a Music Ed student at York College at the time when I received a call from Doc Boas asking me what I was doing during the summer and if I would be interested in playing trumpet in the “largest brass band under the big top”. That was the start of four summers of driving trucks, setting up tents, playing in the band and also being the cook for fifty people. I live in the area and have passed the canvas truck in the painting several times in the farm field and it reminds me of times when the band would load in the back and drive through the streets of the towns to draw attention to the people in the community to come see the show. On nights when we had off we would all load in the back and go to the drive in movies. That made quite a sight when we pulled up to pay in a truck with Circus Kirk painted on the side and about twenty of us piled in the back.
    It definitely brings back alot of great memories and developed friendships from a wonderful experience.
    Thank you again for capturing it.

  3. I would also be interested in ordering a print. I was with the show in ’75 and I now live in Paris where I have a career in circus and theater that started with the Kirk.
    Bernie Collins
    misterbpzoom@hotmail.com