Adding art to downtownPublished 11:53pm Monday, September 6, 2010
In light of the several excellent editorial comments and letters discussing the future of our city and, in particular, those emphasizing that we must work together, using our talents, our projects and our positive ideas to benefit and promote positive growth in this are, I submit this personal column and welcome comments.
In many cities around the country, cityscape art has long been a means of making areas around public buildings and downtown business sections more attractive to those who work there as well as those who are passing through or visiting.
Local artists, formerly The Black Belt School and now the fabulous Arts Revive have also advocated developing an arts colony, which will not only enhance the appearance of Selma but will also attract other artists and visitors. ArtsRevive is in the process of restoring the Carneal Building into a local arts center. The first piece of cityscape art placed on Water Avenue is on the sidewalk in front of the historic Harmony Club, now under restoration by David Hurlbut.
The work of Charlie Lucas, “The Tin Man,” it is named “A Wheel in a Wheel” in honor of his great-grandfather, who made wagon wheels.
The large old metal piece is already attracting a great deal of interest and attention.
And Kathryn Windham, internationally known teller of tales and prolific author, thinks it is an excellent addition to downtown Water Avenue.
“I feel cityscape art would be a wonderful tourist attraction,” Windham said. “Selma should be an art center – we have marvelous artists here. Developing an arts colony will enhance the city.”
Lucas says the art of cityscape culture “sort of represents what I hope our city will become. This first cityscape piece is only the beginning. I hope my art opens a path to the future for the children of Selma. But first we have to train them.”
He is already teaching them “stuff I pick up off the street and out of yards can be made into something beautiful.”
The “stuff” Lucas says, is material people have in their houses for maybe 30 minutes, maybe long enough to be tired of. “So I recycle it, and the people, too.”
Lucas is kept busy with projects at local schools when he is in town. However, he is in demand at projects in other cities as well: Gadsden, Atlanta for the Folk Fest, the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery and workshops all over the country await their turn.
One of Lucas’ favorite pieces will perhaps soon have a place on Selma’s riverfront. Named “The Fisherman,” it is a life-size figure of an elderly man, corn cob pipe in his mouth, casting a fishing line. To Lucas “he is an old man who has found his way through life, and all his life he has dreamed about catching the big fish. I’m hoping he catches it before he leaves us.”
Although Selma has been Lucas’ home for a relatively short time, he feels strongly about it. “Selma has so much history — we’ve crossed the bridge, now we need to go to work together. We must embrace the struggles of the past and put them in a good place.”
His work contains both discipline and rhythm. “I preach through my art, but the self-discipline was hard-learned. I had to keep believing that someday it would be worthwhile.”
Lucas feels that putting art downtown will say to the world that we are growing a new flower for Selma. Our local artists are not starving for food, they are starving for an appreciation of art. Money cannot buy the joy and appreciation shown by the students I reach – or the happiness it brings me to see them take something they pick up and make it into something wonderful.
“I tell them it’s like throwing down a penny and picking up a dollar.”
Jean Martin is editor emeritus of Life & Styles.