Westerville News & Public Opinion

Louisville museum doffs hat to Westerville resident's creation

Uptown artist's design places in contest, will be featured for a year in the Kentucky Derby Museum

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You can take the girl out of Kentucky, but you can't take Kentucky out of the girl.

Gena Fausel, a Lexington, Ky., native, has been living in Westerville for 15 years. And in spite of how Ohio loves its Little Brown Jug, the former home economics teacher has stuck with her roots.

Fausel, 58, entered the Kentucky Derby Museum's annual hat contest on a whim, and wound up with the "Most Representative of the Derby" award for 2014 and a spot in the museum for the next year.

A friend needed a derby-themed hat for work, and asked Fausel, who said she "dabbles" in art and fashion, to throw something together for him.

What she came up with was a hat adorned with racing horses and roses in a simple but obviously derby-themed straw hat.

"It's kind of whimsical and fun," Fausel said. "That's kind of the way I like to challenge myself as an artist. I'm very technically trained for details and things, so it helps me to have a challenge like a contest to kind of push me out of that box."

The museum awarded its prizes June 19, and Fausel said she was surprised to receive the email informing her of the recognition.

"I couldn't believe it," she said.

Now, the hat -- along with 19 others -- will sit in the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville until next June.

While Fausel admits that the timing seems odd, it makes sense.

"It might appear strange to average person," she said. "But that means that this year, you would go and visit the museum and see hats exhibited that perhaps were worn at the derby that year."

Fausel's art can be found regularly at the Ohio Art Market in Westerville, 30 N. State St., and she said she enjoys the challenge of coming up with a creative hat each year.

"I always do a new hat," she said. "I use it like an artist challenge. I'm not going and collecting a hat or a vintage hat and looking for something that will win, I'm doing it differently."

Her entry in 2011 was also in the top 20, but this was her first award from the museum.

Fausel said she's pleased with the honor, but it doesn't come with a payday.

"My husband said, 'So where's the big check?' " she said with a laugh. "But, you know, nothing I ever do amounts to a terrible amount of money. It's always just for the love of art and participating."

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