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:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ruthie Foster and Other Shooting Stars at Texas Reds...

A few cars shy of a load...

The annual Texas Reds Festival seemed to be operating at around half capacity in the unforgiving Texas heat Sunday. There was something for everybody... but the event was so spread out that it seemed like only a fraction of "everybody" took advantage of this cultural extravaganza. Still there was a very impressive variety of quality bands, and loyal fans of of Ruthie Foster that made the day worthwhile.

"How long as it been?"

"I feel like I'm in trouble"

Ruthie came and did her magic in her unique, classy and soft spoken style, as hundreds gathered at her tent. Almost... yes indeed a spiritual experience, she introduced her proud family on the sidelines and spoke of "Paw Paw" and "Big Mama,"And shared a few memories from her formative years in her hometown of Gause; about Paw Paw driving up from the Brazos bottom in the noisy old pick up truck, with chains clanging on the tailgate, and him parking under the live oak tree, that made the oppressive heat seem like part of the act.

 And yes she sang. She is the greatest voice to blossom in these parts since Texas Alexander. And nobody remembers him. Nobody will forget seeing Ruthie when she sings. Local guitarist Red Carson sat in on a few tunes, and made it a real Brazos Valley homecoming.

The attendance to the overall event was strangely sparse, but Ruthie's stage was comfortably packed.

The artist's booths were well worth the time to peruse. Amanda Lynne is a young mother who has committed the time with the help of her husband to produce these vibrant nature scenes. Very reasonably priced.

Trevor Reed of College Station is a woodworker who turns chunks of rare wood into gorgeous instruments.... this bass guitar he brandishes was the epitome of functional art.

DOZENS of excellent bands like Jonathan Tyler, from all over the country converged to offer an amazing music event.

Were you ever out at night and someone said, "There goes a shooting Star!"? And you looked up but it was too late? For many folks in the Brazos Valley, that is exactly what happened here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Texas Reds Festival- over the top

The Texas Reds Festival in downtown Bryan is more overwhelming than ever, providing around six square blocks of solid fun, art and entertainment. Countless bands perform on five different stages ( and more in the Palace Theatre!) all day to totally dazzle and confuse people like me who want to see it all. You just can't, that's all.

But you can try.

Ruthie Foster, the hometown favorite girl - gone big time, from lil' old Gause, Texas will take the KBTX stage at 3:30 Sunday.,.

And here some of my favorite scenes from Saturday...

Winers and diners meet their match at the Texas Reds Festival. There is no telling how many grapes had to die so that dozens of wineries could offer samples to thousands of wine lovers, doing their Texas best to make them feel the love.

Energetic Este Vato played such infectious music that whole groups broke into spontaneous cluster dancing.

Este Vato

Rockin' The Docs were a real crowd pleaser, attracting one of the largest crowds of fans. They are solid, dynamic and seem to be having as much fun as their audience. And they had cool lights.

This ain't yo mama's Motown... but if she closed her eyes, she would have to admit these guys lay down some passionate, righteous soul, even if only one of them is black... Soul Track Mind proves once and for all that American music is finally colorblind.

Local award winning blues- rockers Tubie and the Touchtones held their own amid all the competition. These three bombarded the downtown canyon with original songs and their own versions of rock classics.

How do you drive an Aggie crazy? Send him to Texas Reds and tell him to find all the rock and roll.

There are numerous artists and craftspersons exhibiting, from as far away as Kansas and California.. Several were very pleased with their sales. Local favorite J. Vincent Scarpace was smiling the most, as he and his sales manager (his brother) enjoyed an especially successful day.

And the best is yet to come! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Parker-Astin Arts Center: Bryan's Art Angel Takes a Bold Leap

The Parker-Astin Arts Center blossomed with appropriate fanfare Thursday, Sept. 18th, and promises to be the heartbeat of the art community in Bryan's historic downtown district. That is a mouthful, and is only possible because it is owned and managed by Bryan's angel in residence, Greta Watkins, formerly of the Frame Gallery just down the street. Greta has moved her studio and frame shop into the old Parker-Astin building, and offers much the same products and services as before-  a very comfy cultural center.

Greta's opening attracted a fairly young crowd.

The very respectable jazz band (with Randy Watkins on drums) playing during the grand opening inspired an aura of class and urban sophistication, but the crowd and the artists were a very laid back collection of home folks.

All this stimulation!

Theodora Krc poses with "The Guardian," a fitting symbol of Parker-Astin's matriarch.

I met vivacious Theodora Krc (kersh) of Bryan, who makes jewelry and paints contemporary abstracts. One of her nicer Motherwell-esque works was hanging in the restroom!  Her heavily textured painting of an angel called The Guardian fascinated my camera as the light played on it. She insisted it looked better in the daylight. I'm pretty sure it relishes in each unique lighting situation.

John Pinkerton was happy to stand next to his portrait of Janis Joplin, which seemed as alive as any of us in the room. John is always experimenting with new themes. Each one is treated with his special, unmistakable perspective. He started with cats. Then dogs. Then movie legends of his youth. He's done blues legends and now he's doing rock legends. Art buyers understand that he will soon be the legend.

Highly acclaimed Mary Scott of Caldwell has transitioned into acrylics after many years of pastels and oils. She found that art galleries preferred paintings on canvas. She is now painting with rich hues and values which were impossible with her pastels. Still, we will miss those exquisite, dreamlike pastels. But Mary is not looking back, she is slated to appear in Southwest Art Magazine, and is committed to creating a style with her new medium that will attract art lovers with equal passion to the past. And that is why we artists love art... it is constantly evolving.

Becky Witherspoon explained her unique encaustic techniques. She paints with melted wax using a hot iron. Her smaller works were very intriguing and priced very reasonably. Becky was next to the swinging jazz band, and it was hard to hear her explanations, but her kind smile said everything  you need to know.

Tim "Pops" Vanya of Somerville explained how he is once again forming a western artist's group, called The Western Associates, of which he hopes to exercise a good deal of paternal influence. He is still determined to connect the dots, and to help western art collectors find what they want without having to travel to Santa Fe or Scottsdale. He also explained the definition of an artist; somebody who refuses to quit! He was probably referring to himself, but his definition would apply to many of the artists in the room, including the gallery owner.

I decided to go and get this story posted, but looked around one more time. Perhaps a hundred people gathered and sipping wine and having a good time... with art as the backdrop. I'm going to just say it. These dedicated artists cannot survive on good will and social popularity. If you were thinking about buying a piece of art, there will never  be a better time to weigh in at the CASH REGISTER, and affirm what these folks are doing.

Creative juices can flow abundantly in places such as this.

If you move the A in GREAT to the end, you get Greta. Parker-Astin is the real deal and should attract real deal collectors. Furthermore, it is a great addition to the downtown Bryan art scene, and GreAta and the other artists within deserve a visit, and your patronship.

Monday, September 15, 2014

BrazoSphere finds a home! ABC40!

I want to welcome ABC40 of Bryan, Texas as my partner in this blog. ABC and I have joined together to give you a ride in the front seat as I explore art and entertainment here in the Brazos Valley. 

Here is a link to our new ad... to be aired soon...

With my sculpture in front of Stelzig's at Bush Airport.

I have spent a lifetime immersed in the arts and the history of this region, and believe this is the most intriguing and inspiring place on the earth. 

You can only imagine how excited I am about bringing my stories to a television audience. Before we move on to wonderful things, I want to take just a  moment and introduce myself to you.

You might say my acorn rooted right under the tree. My father was a civic leader and a published Texas historian, and my mother was an antique dealer and accomplished portrait painter. They shaped me into a passionate communicator and encouraged my pursuit of an art career. My family moved from Houston to Grimes County in 1972, and it has been home ever since. Ironically, many of my pioneer ancestors who have always been a great inspiration for me were buried in the 1870's in the Bryan City Cemetery. Now I will be covering their legacy for ABC40, a growing television station committed to covering our local color.

I have been an artist all of my life, and have made art professionally here in the Brazos Valley for almost forty years. I have also worked at various times as a carpenter, sign maker, ranch hand, museum director, and photographer. An artist has to be flexible to survive. I am married and have one daughter, and I have lived in Navasota for 25 years, where I have served the community in various ways, including on the board of the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley and the Navasota City Council.

My mural at Wrangler Steak House.

I have painted waaaay over fifteen thousand square feet of murals in Texas schools, museums and other public places. The Star of the Republic Museum, Houston Baptist University and Blue Bell Creamery are just a few of my mural customers. 

My latest life-sized bronze, of  City Marshal Frank Hamer, in front of Navasota City Hall.

My monumental sculptures adorn neighborhoods all over the place, and especially in my hometown of Navasota.  I have also worked locally as a theater set designer, taught art lessons for thirty years, promoted concerts and managed a six county tourism market sponsored by the National Trust.

I am probably known more to local antique collectors as a source of information on early Texas stoneware. Around one hundred people a day visit my blogs on Texana,  especially on Texas Ranger badges. I am a passionate writer, authoring five different blogs including this one. There is my blues blog:, my Navasota blog: , my family blog:, my art blog:, and this one, made especially for ABC40.

ALL of this experience has prepared me to write this blog, called BrazoSphere, which will be your one-stop-shop for local cultural orientation and my impressions of art and entertainment opportunities that will be of interest to YOU! So check out the permanent features at the top... explore our fabulous cultural history!

Let's Go!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

First Yell... Lasting Moments

Music is a great unifying force. In this case bringing young and old, new and classic, Anglo and Tejano music, Aggies and some grateful bystanders, together for an evening rich with the sounds of Aggieland.

The Yell Leaders of the Aggies at Texas A & M know all about yelling. But they also know how to put on one Yell of a show!

Below are some highlights of Friday night's entertainment which preceded the annual "Yell Practice" at Kyle Field... This was a fabulous show, a blend of that eternal Aggie Spirit, and deep traditions, and some performances that will live forever...

Fellow Aggie and former A&M Corp officer Max Stallings kicked things off with his easy Texas lyrics and homegrown charm.

The State's Monster Aggie, Roger Creager, blew out some earphones no doubt as he gave the Aggies his romping best. Here is how those Fightin', Dancin' Texas Aggies responded...

Creager even brought his dad into the act as they sang El Rancho Grande. It was a hoot. Or a whoop, or something like that. He explained he was about to leave Texas for awhile and tour in the west and needed to get a dose of Texas Aggie love to last him for awhile... And he got it, not to mention a standing ovation.

THEN, Gary P. Nunn, Joe Ely and Johnny Bush made a rare combined performance, sharing the stage and the "house band" ( a combination of each of their bands) as they played some favorites. Nunn gave us what we all wanted when he sang The London Homesick Blues, first sung with Jerry Jeff Walker here in College Station many years ago.... ( I want to go home with the armadillo...) The transplanted Oklahoman did his own version of his song Willie Nelson made famous, The last Thing I Needed, and he also sang his classic, What I Like About Texas, which started out as a Lone Star Beer commercial... "You ask me what I like about Texas..." he sings as he points into the crowd.

Yeah, Gary, it's the people... and especially the Aggies!

Johnny Bush thrilled the hard core dancers as he stepped up to the mic. He is approaching eighty but still has that beautiful voice. And it still makes Texan's SWING! He bragged that he did not have to use glasses. He said he just drinks straight out of the bottle. He gave us Whiskey River and There Stands the Glass... AS FRESH AS THE ORIGINAL RECORDINGS-  and suddenly we all had separate out-of-body experiences to wherever we were when we heard those songs the first time. But we all came back before the show was over...

Bush can still compete with his voice of fifty years ago... But he's probably more charming  now. "I've been divorced so many times UHAUL rental company sends me a Christmas card!"

Joe Ely renders I'm Gonna Live Forever.

The most special treat of the night may have been the appearance of Joe Ely. Yes, he's still around and as these pictures attest, stronger than ever. Joe rocked the Yell with an Aggie standard, The Road Goes On Forever, and did his version of Billy Joe Shaver's "I'm Gonna Live Forever." Yes Joe, in a way you will, through your hearty music. And the connection you made to everybody who was there, and that spirit in the Reed Arena... it will last forever too.

But Ely is only beginning to unfold his "forever" connections...

Of special interest is the film documentary Joe is producing about Brazos Valley legend, "Stubbs" Stubblefield, who has become a famous barbecue icon... Stubblefield was born in Navasota, and became a major music patron in west Texas. I was able to capture a brief explanation of Ely's inspiration for this long overdue documentary... We look forward to the completion of this worthy project.