artNotes from Hyde House: Philip Ledbetter – The Backstory

Philip Ledbetter

With the generous donations made by friends like you for GIVE4ART! on Give Carthage Day and with the support of Carthage Community Foundation, Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Bass Pro Shops, artCentral, with renewed zeal, will continue bringing great art to our small town. Thank you for your generosity that makes artCentral’s magic happen. In this thirty-sixth year of introducing and exhibiting  artists, their stories and their art, here is artCentral’s next offering made possible thanks to you!

A self-appointed community volunteer who quietly paints over the graffiti each time pranksters make mischief on the picnic tables and benches in the park near his house. A lover of his wife and family and companion puppies. Definitely a dapper dresser. An unassuming, thoughtfully quiet spoken man who goes into his Joplin studios and makes big, bold, bright paintings that will likely knock your socks off! This is Philip Ledbetter—artCentral’s solo exhibition artist for PHILIP LEDBETTER: PAINT in MOTION on view in Hyde House, April 2 through May 15, 2021.

Like many artists Phil has a backstory that strongly influences, inspires and informs his art-making. As a native of Southern California, having a devoted mother, but no father, in the year of nineteen sixty-six, at the age of sixteen, having spent a great amount of time on the sea, Phil  won the coveted Sea Explorer of the Year award. The honor was bestowed upon him with a great amount of pomp and tradition on the quarterdeck of the S.E.S. (Sea Explorer Ship) Neptune, with much saluting and the reading of his commendation to the gathered assembly, as the ocean breeze whipped and popped the ship’s flags and all the youngsters in “dress whites” stood stiffly at attention. Phil’s honor came with a lovely gold trophy that he was allowed to keep for one year.


While spending six years in the Sea Explorers, Phil graduated from high school during the “Summer of Love” and at age eighteen moved into the Sea Explorer officer ranks as he helped “show the ropes” to the new recruits. Phil tells us, “The Sea Explorers kept me out of trouble during my teens, taught me seamanship, and also taught me a deep respect, fear and abiding love of the ocean.”

By the age nineteen, having practiced for five years, Phil became a fairly accomplished Bluegrass musician and vocalist. Playing guitar and five-string banjo he was drawn to the Ozarks of Arkansas. After one year of learning to party, he dropped out of the University of the Ozarks. As though a ship without a rudder being blown about by the wind, he traveled north to seek his fortune in Missouri.

Turning twenty and having no skills for land-locked living, he worked as a hospital orderly, and began to study emergency medicine at Missouri Southern State University and at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Completing his studies, he worked as a Nationally Registered Paramedic in Carthage, Missouri, for ten years. Becoming fascinated by diagnostic ultrasound, Phil eventually left emergency medicine, becoming a registered Adult Cardiac Sonographer.

Simultaneously he spent 22 years in the Navy Reserves as a Corpsman. Mobilized to active duty twice, for two and a half years away from his home, he served the sick and injured. He learned to sail at Naval Station, Pensacola, and retired from the Navy in 2005, by the side of his wife Jill who is also a 22-year Navy Corpsman.

After retirement Phil attended Missouri Southern State University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art with a minor degree in Art History. Today at the estate of “Three Oaks” on the banks of Shoal Creek, Phil has home studios in his living room and garage.

In addition to being Artist-in-Residence, Phil is the Chief Groundskeeper, Butler and Maintenance Supervisor. When not behind his easel or fulfilling the duties of his several job descriptions, he loves native plant gardening, walking his two little guard dogs and playing guitar, banjo and didgeridoo.

Now that you know the backstory of exhibiting artist Philip Ledbetter, come meet the artist and see his amazing art. Phil’s Opening Reception is April 2, Friday, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at 1110 East Thirteenth Street where CDC protocols will be practiced to keep us all safe and healthy. Masks are required indoors.