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Friends With Words: Art Is For Everybody

I’m going to climb on my soapbox. My legs are short, so it may take me a while to clamber up…

Brace yourself.

Here it comes.

Art is for everybody!

Yes, everybody—even people like me, a redneck tomboy who as a child considered cussing in Spanish a higher form of communication and turned down piano lessons because, as I told my Papa Alph, “I’d much rather ride my horse.”

Now, while I’ll argue with my last breath that art is for everybody, it doesn’t mean everybody is an artist.

I’m not a ballerina despite one year of lessons at Miss Janet’s School of Dance held at the Lexington High School cafetorium. My momma enrolled me when I was in kindergarten, a point in my life where I resembled the love child of the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Campbell’s Soup Girl. I spent the entire year hiding in the boys’ bathroom so I wouldn’t have to turn a somersault. Miss Janet threw in tumbling as a bonus along with ballet and tap. On the first day, I flipped off the mat, knocked the breath out of myself and developed a phobia. I still break out in a sweat at the sight of a tumbling mat on a concrete floor, especially if that floor is splattered with gravy from a can.

I’m not a musician despite four long years of clarinet practice. In the seventh grade, my band director suggested that I help the band by quitting.

I’m not a ceramicist despite seven months of pottery lessons. For the record, if you don’t stick your clay firmly to the wheel it turns into a semi-lethal projectile. Thankfully the instructor ducked. After the first night, my classmates dubbed me “The Destroyer.” The nickname stuck better than my clay.

Fortunately, though, my lack of talent doesn’t keep me from appreciating the expression of others. In fact, I think the fact that I’ve tried it and failed miserably makes me appreciate others’ work even more. I know this art stuff ain’t near as easy as it looks.

Plus, art once saved my life. It was the summer before I was a senior in high school, and I had convinced my parents to let me go to Europe. When I got home, my momma wanted to know every single detail.

It was an animated conversation until I made one almost fatal mistake involving the Sistine Chapel. You need to know that one of my momma’s favorite books is The Agony and the Ecstasy, a historical novel based on Michelangelo’s life. Oh, and at the time my mother hadn’t traveled to Europe. She sent me instead.

Her: “Lorie, tell me all about the Sistine Chapel.”

Me: “There’s not much to tell. I didn’t go.”

Her, with her voice and her blood pressure rising to precipitous heights: “YOU DIDN’T TOUR THE SISTINE CHAPEL?!?”

Me, indignant: “We’d already spent two weeks looking at old churches. I didn’t need to see another one.”

Deadly silence. Red face. Bulging eyes. Hers not mine.

Me, recovering quickly: “Instead of going to the Sistine Chapel, Steph and I went to a fountain, got some gelato and interacted with the natives.”

Her, still blazing: “You blew off the Sistine Chapel to sit by a water sprinkler, eat ice cream and flirt with Italian boys?”

I tried to lighten the mood by telling her the hilarious story of how we were almost arrested in Rome for an international laundry incident. Now that I’m a parent I understand the words “arrest” and “police,” particularly in the context of a foreign country, never lighten the mood.

Fortunately as my life began to pass before my eyes, I saw Michelangelo’s statue of David dominating everything around it—a piece of white Carrera marble that through chisel strokes and vision pulsed with life. I reminded my momma that through David, Michelangelo conveyed that man was not defined by sin but stood as God’s ultimate creation.

When I told her that I cried I wasn’t lying because in David I saw for the first time the melding of God’s hand with the artist’s heart. For me, a child raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, I saw the Creator’s creation creating and surmised that maybe being created in His image wasn’t about the eyes, hair and skin but about the gift of creativity.

art is for everybody
photo by Miguel A. Padrinan

Ultimately, art is about creativity. Art sustains creativity—the ability to see possibilities in the ordinary. Creative people, whether they’re scientists, inventors, business owners, teachers, designers, engineers, builders or artists, are the driving force behind positive changes in the world. Is Bill Gates an artist? Maybe not. Is Bill Gates creative? Definitely. I suspect the people you value most highly in your circles are those who are creative—the ones who tell you how something can be done instead of just saying it’s impossible.

For the record, creativity is alive and well in the Roundtopolis. In this issue, you’ll meet James Dick, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist, and Larry Birkelbach, a local master carpenter who joined forces to create Festival Hill as well as a host of builders and associated craftsman who are leaving their unmistakably unique imprint on the landscape with their projects. Through a myriad of programs and opportunities, Arts for Rural Texas based in Fayetteville is igniting the sparks of creativity in the next generation. We also explore Bethlehem Lutheran Church whose history stretches back 150 years to a time when the pioneering settlers relied on their creativity to tame a rough and tumble new land.

The spirit of those early pioneers is still evident here where the promise of possibilities is as abundant as bluebonnets. Thanks for allowing us to be part of this thriving community. Man, we’re glad you’re our neighbors.

A Letter from the Publishers
by Lorie Woodward Cantu and Katie Dickie Stavinoha

We messed up and we’re sorry…In the spring installment of “Friends with Words,” I got the title of the national magazine in which we were honored to be included wrong. It’s Where Women Create Business not Where Women Do Business. I was so flustered to be in front of the camera instead of behind the scenes, I also didn’t attribute my “style” instructions correctly. For the record, it was Katie, not the national magazine staff, who told me to get my roots done. She’s been weighing in on my hair ever since our college days when she “highlighted” it using a kit we bought on clearance at the grocery store. I’m sorry for not getting it right. Accuracy and quality are important to us.


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