Jean Thompson was born August 29, 1929 in Troy, Alabama. She married James Thomas “Trigger” Lake and together, they had three children. Without the benefit of formal training, Jean painted from childhood. While she worked for the First Farmers and Merchants National Bank in Troy, her avocation was art and her simple, primitive works were shown throughout the Southeast, gaining popularity and winning several awards.
Jean has been described as a fun-loving, free-spirit talent and was a favorite among the traveling artist circuit. She would often invite her art friends to her beloved hometown for art shows. After Jean’s death in 1976, friends of Jean Lake approached The Troy Council on the Arts and Humanities to combine local art shows into a big two-day art show, to be held on the grounds of the Pike Pioneer Museum, to showcase the region’s best artists and more importantly, honor Jean Thompson Lake. The first Jean Lake Memorial Art Show was held in 1982.
In 2003, the festival committee moved the show from the Pike Pioneer Museum grounds to the downtown square. Along with the new location, the festival also took on a new name, TroyFest, The renamed festival was available to the public at no charge for the first time and allowed room for more vendors to participate. TroyFest, continues to grow and make changes with each year.
In 2006, TroyFest celebrated its 5th anniversary was designated as an “Official Year of Alabama Art Event.” Today the fesival continues to be recognized as a top emerging art show by many art show review publications and “Top 10 Event by the Alabama Bureau of Travel and Tourism.”
The artwork of Jean Lake is still exhibited all over the world today. She continues to be recognized as the namesake of the festival and the exclusive scholarship that is awarded each year to a high school Senior pursuing the arts. Her contributions to our community and to the primitive art world will never be forgotten.