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:

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


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 @

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.

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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

Sunday, October 5, 2014



Sometimes everything works out. After you have done things a few times and work out the kinks, and if you get lucky, the weather cooperates... Navasota had a perfect classic car show this year that will become the standard by which its future car shows will be compared.

Councilman Grant Holt beams from his stunning red convertable.

My favorite was this 1940 Ford street rod.

These youngsters certainly found their favorite... the restored Navasota firetruck.

There was superb rock music by Suede. There were activities for children, food and drinks served by the Navasota Diamonettes.

Years of diligence have paid off, and the Navasota Kiwanis Club, and especially Jon McNally are to be congratulated for this glorious event. Look at this picture! I could not find a bad angle. They deserve some kind of trophy... and it would look something like this...

It was sad to see these beauties depart. But the shear beauty of the perfect day will keep us smiling for months.

So put this event on your bucket list!

STUNNING- GLORIOUS- IDYLLIC. And the cars were cool too! :)

Surely, a sign of things to come.