Your Online Guide to the Arts in the Brazos Valley

Photos and articles by one of the Brazos Valley's leading artists... guiding you to great art and entertainment opportunities. For a blog about Brazos Valley Music History, Click HERE: http://brazosvalleyblues.blogspot.com/

Friday, December 12, 2014

Legendary Names Sing to Preserve a Legend with the Blues Country Band!

Joe Tex II in Navasota

The Navasota VFW Hall hosted its second fund-raiser for the proposed Joe Tex statue and this time I was lucky enough to attend. I took so many photos... and then my computer crashed... and it took me this long to get around to looking at, cropping and posting them!

Jett McFalls: Play that funky music white boy!

This was a very special night for me... getting to see Joe Tex II perform again... I'm so glad he found me painting on the street on that Saturday afternoon and reminded me about the concert.. I'm getting where I crash every evening at around dinner time and rest is all I care about. But I promised him I would be there... even if it was going to go past my bedtime...

           Archie Bell
 
There were several warm up acts, all very good, and I did not know most of their names so I need help with that... SOME of the entertainers were Joe's kinsmen Neil Tex and Wymon "Bodacious" Armstead, formerly of Navasota, and David Karoska, Mark Powell, Carlos Sanchez, and Eugene Jones.  I did recognize one familiar face however, Richard Lipscomb, grandson of Mance Lipscomb playing bass... But the big news of the night for many of us was to get to see Archie Bell. Archie Bell and the Drells were hot on the radio when I was just as little kid, and getting to see this Texas legend sing in person was a real privilege. And baby, he is still hot!

Bell is a veteran performer and instinctively knows how to give a photographer what he wants, hence my shots of him were primo...


Joe Tex II, not so much, frolicking around in the crowd just like his dad did, IN THE DARK, and I hate using a flash... but he gave a great show. When he belts out Show Me there is no doubt what tree his little acorn fell out of.


Blues Country Band: Jett, George, Dave and Smokey
 
BUT, perhaps the greatest surprise of the evening and one of great pride for me personally was when I learned about the band hired to back these two great performers... no less than the Blues Country Band, formerly the Blues Alley Cats, who jammed and honed their sound in our weekly music jams at Blues Alley for a couple of years. They have ARRIVED!



Blues Country Band (The Faux Drells!?) poses with Joe Tex II and Archie Bell.
 
Blues Country did their own set and backed up two great acts as well, so they really earned their keep. Anyway, all of this was to raise money to help pay for a proposed sculpture monument of Joe's father, Joe Tex, the famous soul singer of the sixties and seventies,  who lived and died right here in Navasota.
 
Thanks to Joe Tex II & Carlos Sanchez for all the names of the musicians.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Gathering of Angels- in Whitehall, Texas.


My friend Faber McMullen has perhaps the most eclectic and exotic circle of friends of anyone I have ever met. After spending many a Sunday afternoon in worship at his home, I have come to expect almost anything, from the sublime to the ridiculous. So when invited to come and be entertained by his Chinese friends on Saturday evening,  I came with a certain sense of adventure. But I did not expect to fall into a thrill, both human and artistic, never to be forgotten...

It all started with a sumptuous meal made by expert hands, authentic Chinese food from Xinjiang. Then four radiant Chinese ladies came out in native costume and danced as their ancient ancestors must have, as beautiful Chinese music filled the living room. It was a Holy moment. I think everyone felt it. I was sure God was smiling.


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Some of our American girls joined them and got a lesson in Himalayan folk dancing, creating a precious sight...

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THIS is what Heaven will be like some day.

Soon the men joined in the moment of cultural exchange; doctor, lawyer and Indian chief... well Nick Falco our obligatory cowboy represented both sides of the wild west. It was a hoot. And very significant in a symbolic way. 

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This IS what Heaven will be like. People of every race and gender and culture-  praising and frolicking and worshiping God in their own tongues... and in their own way... and for Eternity!

I can't wait! Thank you to the McMullens for sharing this wonderful glimpse of the pure joy of Heaven.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Nutcracker! Majestic. At Rudder!

I'm more Mantracker or weed-whacker than Nutcracker, but this was eye candy for anyone with a trace of good taste... Besides, the Nutcracker ballet is not really about a nutcracker!


For exactly sixty years people have enjoyed various versions of the Nutcracker ballet as an American classic holiday tradition, ever since the Russian George Balanchine adapted Tchaikovsky's 1892 score to the modern stage. ABC40 sent me and the crew to the Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M campus to catch the local ballet company's rendition of it. My crew got trapped in a festive traffic quagmire outside... but luckily I got a parking place just in time to catch their performance...



In Texas we pride ourselves with town names like Winchester and Cut and Shoot, and The Nutcracker fits right in. The show really got cranking when they pulled out their swords and started hacking.  Believe it or not, the first performance of this ballet was a failure, and Tchaikovsky was very displeased with his creation, having been given some artistically restraining creative boundaries. That should be an inspiration to every struggling artist.



Look at it now! No matter the story, which is sort of a Christmas toy fantasy, I knew this would be a crowd pleaser for these Aggies. I may not now much about dance but I know athleticism and grace when I see it... Ballet is the epitome of artistic discipline.





The mix of grace and perfection would make anybody watch while forgetting to breathe. Still, the dancers wore genuine smiles of joy as if they were really having fun. That is the mark of natural talent... or just obliviousness to it. Either way it was a joy to watch. 



A packed crowd inside Rudder Auditorium endured the cold, impossible parking and busily milling crowds who were attending multiple campus events to get a glimpse of this ballet mega-hit. But there were many smiles and stares of wonder in the audience. The Christmas season had begun.



THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! This was a prima ballerina worthy of the name.



She was exquisite, and if she was  not actually enjoying herself, then she is a great actress as well.



It went really fast... before you knew it they were done. And I was finally learning how to photograph them!



They always give them flowers at the end... and it never seems like enough for all that work.

BRAVO! I failed to get a program, so if somebody wants to give me some names I would love to recognize these artists... This was a real jump-start for getting into the Holiday spirit. But they are going to need a much bigger auditorium when the word finally gets out about the quality of art you can see right here in the Brazos Valley.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Catherine Kaleel- Basic Values

A portrait by Catherine Kaleel.


Catherine Kaleel is another one of the artists in residence at the Horlock Gallery in Navasota. She works in oil on plywood. At 34 years she is the veteran in the house and has finally zeroed in on several things. She is a painter. She likes basic things, and she paints with a fairly limited palette, using her own version of primary colors, as she seeks to find signature traces of humanity in simple things... Catherine wonders about the artisans who designed the objects she paints. She edifies something like an electric soldering iron as an example of the material culture of a past generation...


Kaleel is passionate as she explains her interest in the design inherent in everyday things.  


 Yes... that is a painting of a cassette tape. 

 
 

Catherine is a relatively young artist with some old school expertise. She draws quite well. On  her canvas you can detect notations that have been used by portrait artists since ancient times to attain proper proportion. With these she can create a stunning likeness of another person. She also has good command of color.







Catherine understands the importance of excellent lighting within the design to achieve a compelling painting. She takes scores of photographs experimenting with the best possible lighting on a subject.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Woolscapes and Other Discoveries in Navasota: Horlock Gallery

There are three new artists occupying the historic Horlock House on Washington Avenue in Navasota, now dubbed the Horlock Gallery and History Museum. In an effort to make the house relevant to the community, the City of Navasota has transformed the house into an artist’s gallery and living quarters for three lucky artists who are selected every six months. 

Right now the house is occupied by Lisa Urban of Salina, Kansas, Catherine Kaleel of California, and Mick Burson from Waco. These artists were juried and selected from a large number of aspiring artists around the country, who applied for the opportunity. They recently hung individual exhibits of their artwork in various parlors of the spacious Victorian house where they now live and work. After their opening Saturday, two of them graciously agreed to talk some about their stay as artists-in-residence in a small town in Texas…

Lisa Urban speaks enthusiastically about her art and her stay in Navasota.

Lisa Urban is just a little excited about it all… Here is some video of our interview... (sorry, you have turn up the volume all the way!)

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Lisa has entered into a journey uniquely her own, producing what I like to call "Urban woolscapes" from lighted set-ups which she creates...

The focus of Lisa Urban's studies is wool, weavings, yarn... arranged in dramatic ways, such as the still- life above...

The lighted still-life might inspire a major work of surrealism, such as this one, or the smaller studies surrounding it.

Lisa explains the steps in her artistic process...


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Lisa talks about the Horlock Artists-in-Residence project...

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Mick Burson was more laid back, and yet his message was very similar. Both artists seemed to be truly appreciative of the opportunity to work in this environment... 

Rather than focus on a family of related subjects, Mick is constantly looking for that element which he has not considered before, that which the rest of us might never consider, a path less taken.


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Burson went on to explain that for him a main point or satisfaction of his art is this freedom… to explore and produce whatever he wants… such as the “obnoxious” timeline with paintings stacked one on top of the other, rendered with latex house paint, some of them partially made from concrete, nails and metal scraps... and then inserted into a minimalist twelve foot column reaching all the way to the ceiling. Mick Burson likes to explore boundaries and use the materials and the space, wherever it is, which he finds in front of him. This is a man who appreciates the little things in life...



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Mick takes things as they come. He left (for instance) his studies at the University of North Texas in Denton to engage in this unique six-month program in Navasota.  He tries to use things which he finds in his everyday life in his art, and he does not let the business or commercial aspect of art affect his artistic journey.


Portraits by Catherine Kaleel

Catherine Kaleel has a couple of different forms of artistic expression. One is a stunning portrait technique, with a true gift for capturing a human likeness. The other is an almost photo-realistic approach to rendering studies of relatively obsolete modern objects, such as random cassette tapes or power tools. The contrast between the two is arresting; the nobility and power of the human soul juxtaposed against the ultimate refuse of planned obsolescence. She fittingly studies her humans with a fresh, lively, almost impressionistic style, and yet the manufactured items with technical precision.




Her portraits are exceptional. They might be called her "bread and butter" business, while she develops her artistic vision based somewhat on the story inanimate objects can tell, or perhaps the stories we subjectively attach to them. A little older than the other two, Kaleel has worked in the art world for a decade and welcomes the chance to get a change of scenery and the stimulation of hanging out in a new environment.


A stroll through the galleries at the Horlock House seems to produce a recurrent theme by these different artists from different places in the United States, and that is re-purposing, or recycling. The popular causes instilled by our American educators are surfacing in the paintings by their students, in paintings portraying discarded material culture, or paintings done with recycled materials, or paintings showing the intrinsic beauty of everyday craft and construction materials.



This is an old theme with an new look, truly reflecting the resourcefulness of the American spirit, hearkening back to when tramps made lamps from popsicle sticks and grandmas wove gorgeous rugs from discarded cotton rags. Now the latest generation of artists reminds us of that pioneer eye, then governed by necessity, which craved and created beauty and utility, and gave new meaning to everyday things.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

When Drums ATTACK! COME LISTEN!

The 2014 Drums Along the Brazos Drumline Contest was held at Cougar Stadium in College Station and hosted riveting performances by High School bands from all over central Texas. There were performances from 11:00 Saturday until late in the afternoon, beginning with Bastrop High School and including Lorena, Italy, Teague, Holland, Madisonville, McGregor, Blanco, Elgin, College Station, Belton and of course its host, A&M Consolidated. Cypress Woods ended the marathon of the thunder at 4:00.

My Intro...


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When some of these bands enter into the stadium,  it takes on the appearance of an army... Belton's "Marching 100" was quite stately rolling in with its artillery.


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Check out the dramatic performance demonstrated by this drum line from McGregor High School.


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And McGregor's got soul man! Check out that drumstick twirling!


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Blanco was not to be outdone, firing away on all cylinders...


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There was something for everybody...



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And I mean EVERYBODY! I think this unusually creative performance was from Elgin High School... Yes, that is a blue plastic bucket!

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They had a regular band as well... with a light-footed, hard-driving drum line...


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It would be hard to be the judge when considering such well planned and executed performances by such talented musicians.  Winners or losers, this is one battle that will have TO BE CONTINUED!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween? No A Hallowing... NAVASOTA THEATER ALLIANCE

 Working for Dr Harris, this devoted nurse became worried about transmitting deadly diseases to her own children.

"We live and die with the choices we make..."

Said nurse Tribble after a lifetime of sacrificially serving the Navasota community as a nurse. And The Navasota Theater Alliance made a great choice in this instance. Once again Lanterns and Legends at Navasota runs away with all of the awards for Best Halloween Season Production, Best Wardrobe, Best Scripts, Best Set Design, Best Organization... and Best Bang for the Buck. 

These are my awards, but why not?


After doctoring during the tragic and bloody Civil War, this doctor gave up medicine after the helplessness he felt during the 1867 Yellow Fever epidemic.

I know a little about art, music, theater... and I will place my awards against any other opinionated person and argue successfully that this may be the most moving, the most significant, the most useful art ever produced in Navasota... or anywhere nearby. There were probably fifty cars in the makeshift parking lot at the Oakland Cemetery, now hallowed ground for a new set of reasons, telling me lots of folks agree with me... They were nearly sold out at every performance.


Even the crowd will give you the creeps out there in the cemetery at night.

This years' theme was "The Brave in the Grave," and that was well illustrated by the characters who emerged from the cemetery darkness to tell their touching stories; A stoic woman who lost her brother and her child in the world wars; An army sergeant killed in action; A newspaper publisher who fought in the Texas revolution, barely escaping the Mexican holocaust, only to to see his newspaper building burned twice, and lose a daughter while quite young and have to report her death in his newspaper.


Joseph Lancaster was a southern firebrand- who often had to put out his own fires.

The courage of our forefathers makes us seem to cower in comparison.


Ranger Bob Werner comes to life as a ring tailed tooter.. and shares his experiences as police chief in Navasota.

Lanterns and Legends is a theatrical hit, on any level... and makes most other Autumn events seem trivial and a waste of time... But that's just my opinion. You will, and should see it for yourself to prove me wrong. 

But if you do... watch your step!



Lanterns and Legends runs through Sunday afternoon...



Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Whiching Hour

5:19

Friday afternoon I made one last attempt to capture with my camera the “Navasota Sparkles” as they passed over my new mural. I have become fascinated with what some very reflective windows across the alley in cooperation with the changing sun do to the artwork. I had discovered that the last sparkle that starts with Blind Willie Johnson around 3:30 migrates and centers (more or less) over the beer clock by Tom Shaw at approximately 5:19. So I painted the hands on the clock accordingly. That was pretty neat I thought. You can read all about the new mural @  http://navasotamusicmural.blogspot.com/

Then when I woke up early this morning, my head full of profound experiences from an especially exciting weekend, my fingers itching to type them out. I lay there wondering whether I should roll over or get up and write. Which would it be? Soon I obediently hopped out of bed and glanced at the clock. It was 5:19.

So here we go, whatever that means.

Profound may be an understatement for my experiences, but since I easily dance on the precipice of overstatement, I will have to try to control myself and allow you to judge for yourself. Here is the thing- I am fortunate enough to get to follow stories, much like a hunter after prey, as they unfold, partly because I have studied history and have learned how to transect with it… and partly because, as I have often observed, I have the gift of finding, and you will see that sometimes I get a lot of help.  Forest Gump has got nothing on me… 

I had too many choices, in order to cover the numerous prospective stories unfolding in the Brazos Valley this past weekend. I really had no idea which ones were the best material for this blog, but I had to make a decision. I had started an article, yet unpublished,  about our local music venues, and so I chose two on Friday night. The Lakeside Ice House sounded perfect on such a beautiful evening, and my friend Randy Pavlock was playing there. Done deal!

Lakeside Ice House- Eternal Bonds and Rock and Roll

Randy Pavlock in deep thought as he rocks the Lakeside Ice House.

Every good entertainer has a few tricks or surprises up his sleeve, and Randy Pavlock loves big surprises. None of us have ever forgotten the night he brought Buddy Miles up on the stage at the Navasota BluesFest, a little age-dizzy and gratuitously cursing as he loved on all the little adoring children around his wheel chair… or at least that’s the way I remember it. This was almost as good. And as spicy.


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A snippet of Randy Pavlock and Twenty-Four Seven... playing Hold on (I'm Comin')

At break time, after some vintage Pavlock rock & roll, Randy stepped down from the limelight and invited Whitney Brandl to spend eternity with him. Now I understood why there were all these big-gun photographers around with their monster cameras and everybody had whipped their camera phones out like there was about to be a rumble.

He took a little time gathering his thoughts…


The object of his undying love, Whitney complained that he always took too ____ long, and then he spit it out, very eloquently I think for a Polish boy from Plantersville, and she teased and pranced and then squealed YEEEES! It was the most exotic proposal most of us had ever seen.



It was a real rock & roll history moment… at least for the Brazos Valley. Our crown prince now has his princess. She is a hairdresser from Bryan. They appear to be a perfect match and truly deserve one another and I wish them the greatest happiness. I’m just glad I stumbled in to that one!

Chris Strachwitz- Of Mice and Men... and Monuments

Mance Lipscomb on stage again... in a viewing of This Ain't No Mouse Music.

Chris Strachwitz, by agreeing to be the subject of a documentary, has inadvertently introduced our favorite son Mance Lipscomb to the world at large, once again. Mayor Bert Miller and I got wind that the legendary record producer was going to be in Houston at the showing of the documentary film on is life. I’m talkin’ Rice University. It was a must go.


Chris is the adventuresome folk music enthusiast who discovered Mance Lipscomb and recorded his music and made him the famous blues celebrity that he became. As one admirer explained, Chris was able to do it all, from “womb to tomb.” And he did it for Mance first and then for hundreds of others. And he did it in blues, conjunto, zydeco and many other music languages.


In This Ain’t No Mouse Music, Chris Strachwitz is celebrated as the treasure he was and is to the music world. He came to Texas looking for Lightnin’ Hopkins, discovered Mance Lipscomb in Navasota in the process, and with the encouragement of fellow searcher Mack McCormick, made Mance his first artist to be released on Arhoolie Records. What followed was a rich, bountiful harvest of various samplings of regional folk music that became the most extensive collection of American folk music ever produced. I do not think that is an overstatement. 

Chris also witnessed Texas farm labor traditions first hand before the Civil Rights Movement, and actually visited with the legendary Tom Moore, subject of many blues recordings... Here is a short anecdote about Mance and the somewhat subversive song he was often asked to sing, the Tom Moore Blues...


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What Chris Strachwitz has done, and has been very beautifully captured in the documentary, is to search, find and preserve the very heart and soul of America.

Bert Miller meets Chris Strachwitz.

That might not be an overstatement either, or at least it comes from my heart and soul. Bert and I were glowing like two fireflies as we went home afterwards. I had given Chris a copy of the Navasota Examiner. The one which pictured my new mural featuring Mance on the front page. I told him Hell had frozen over.  He seemed to be smiling with true joy. Bert had shaken his hand and spoke to him officially as a representative from our humble town, which will always be in debt to him for what he did.

A veritable WWII refugee from Poland, young and totally objective Chris Strachwitz came from California and captured our most precious music, so that someday, when he was old, we would finally be listening. It was a great feeling to hand him evidence, second generation fruit which he had not planted, that his work has left a permanent ripple in our Brazos Valley culture. The wall on Blues Alley certainly proved that we value Mance more than ever, and that Chris Strachwitz got through to the most deaf of ear. That must feel good to know that.

At the end of the documentary, Chris walks along in a glorious musical parade celebrating his career. Unlike Mance and so many of his musicians, he has lived to be appreciated and even be venerated and to taste the sweet nectar of validation. It felt good to be a part of that. We cannot undo the past.  But we can sure enjoy getting it right every once in a while.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Benjamin Knox- The Art of Success


Every once in a while the stars align to provide everything necessary for life in one place- Art, music and wine

But rarely on a regular basis!

Benjamin Knox has been perfecting his vision for a quarter of a century in a veritable retail sweet spot. And over time his aggressive approach and hard work has paid off in several ways.

His elegant and spacious art gallery featuring his own work is surviving in a very tough economy. He continues to add features to his facility such as an event center, a wine bar and a party deck. And understandably his gallery has become the flagship for the College Station art community, offering fine art, good wine and live music every week. In fact three times a week!

Click on the arrow in the box below to hear Benjamin Knox explain his concept...
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Indeed, there has NEVER been an opportunity like this!

Knox offers several evenings a week where professional, popular art, live music and great wine and cheeses are served in gorgeous surroundings.

Once an architecture major at Texas A & M, Benjamin quickly zeroed in on his niche and with great perseverance has gradually improved it until he stands victorious among a diminishing field of competitors. You might say he has illustrated in his business the true heart of a champion. So it is no surprise that much of his work has been studies of traditional Aggie icons, such as Texas A & M football and not a few compositions featuring the famous Texas A & M Aggie Corp. The fierce, competitive spirit seen on the A & M football field has been demonstrated on every canvas coming out of his studio.

Knox talks about his current, near epic exhibit...

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We wish Benjamin the best of luck with that project!


The Wine Depot.

And that same spirit has gone into every product, every addition to his sprawling Art Gallery- Frame Shop- Wine Depot and Event Center. He manages it all himself, with the assistance of half a dozen personnel. There are full-time picture framers, food and wine servers, a couple of college kids working part time, and musicians entertaining several times a week. And above all of this activity he paints his large masterworks in his private studio upstairs.

The coolest people in College Station take advantage of this remarkable cultural asset...

But tonight Knox calmly meanders among the crowd out on the deck, enjoying his creation as if he were a casual guest. Meanwhile The Greg Tivis Trio delivers tight, engaging jazz; the musical equivalent to his masterful paintings...

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Greg and his music can be enjoyed at several local venues every week.

Groups chat and dine in private nooks and out in the idyllic evening air. The place functions automatically like… something an Aggie would design; a very talented, somewhat right-brained Aggie. After years of searching and considerable training, Benjamin proudly claims that he has a solid crew that can handle these weekly events without any hand-wringing or angst. His crew makes him look good... and Benjamin Knox makes success look easy. And he seems to have done it on his terms, a feat within itself.

The Greg Tivis Trio makes time stand still while the world flies by.

But it has not always been so. Knox has overcome some serious personal challenges in recent years which have made him stronger and perhaps wiser, and an even smarter businessman, and if possible, an even more amazing artist. Now the near perfection of his ambitious domain is the result of decades of striving and passion, yet it all seems so ideal and serene. Perhaps his most fascinating, most magical art is his success. How can all of this achievement rise on University Drive, year after year, against impossible odds?


Knox pointed out a new work in his gallery of a Texas A & M football player, the twelfth man, kneeling and praying. It is the picture of a champion, nearly prostrate, leaning on his helmet, having given his all, exhausted and yet thankful, and still knowing where all good things come from. And most importantly, having the presence of mind to take the time to say a prayer of thanksgiving. It pretty much sums up where Benjamin Knox is today; the life of a champion, feeling gratitude for his success, happy with his performance on the field. It is a sweet place to be.

Benjamin Knox enjoys the fruits of his labors.


And Benjamin Knox is a big believer in giving back. In fact he credits some of his success to his reciprocity in this community. He has given a lot, and the community has given back in spades. He has also been sure to use his gallery as a venue for local musicians and emerging performers as well...

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Art lovers, or music lovers, or Aggies, or avid wine tasters will find their cultural home here at Benjamin Knox Art Gallery, and his Wine Depot, and in the process, they will be sharing a little of his success.

We can only imagine what Benjamin Knox might do next with this amazing facility, and how or where he might aim his talents in the future. Knox says he wants to explore landscapes and do more western and historical subjects, and other things to do with our Texas heritage. If his delightful weekly parties are any indication… the best is yet to come.

The Benjamin Knox Art Gallery is located at 405 University Drive, (East) in College Station, Texas. Hours are Mon-Wed 12-8, Thur-Sat 12-12, LIVE MUSIC Thur & Fri 7-10