artNotes from Hyde House: Artist-of-the-Year Celebrities and Arti Gras

Andy Thomas sculpture-enhanced oil painting created for Lowell Davis.

As Executive Director-Curator of artCentral I have the very unique privilege of serving all of Carthage and our surrounding neighbors—in the only non-profit art center venue in Carthage. With this privilege come great opportunities to know the art stars of Carthage and the region.

At the recent annual Carthage Chamber of Commerce banquet, I was thrilled to share the stage with our local artist hero Andy Thomas. Not only has Andy won international acclaim and mega media coverage for his wonderful artistic gifts and his amazing artistic accomplishments, but in doing so he’s cast a shining light on our beloved Carthage and all of us who are blessed to live in this magical town. For all the good and positive and art-centric attention he’s brought to us we say a happy, hearty “Thank You!” to Andy.

I asked Andy to be artCentral’s evening presenter for the “Artist of the Year” award, because Andy has very, very special connections with our award recipient. I knew Andy’s comments would be perfect and poignant. I knew the award recipient’s response would be equally so, even if a little shocking. Placing my iPhone on the podium, I opened my voice memos app and word for word recorded their tearful and touching onstage conversation. With great pleasure I share their heartfelt moments with you.

Dina Thomas, Andy Thomas, Alice Lynn Greenwood-Mathé, Lowell Davis and Rose Davis.

Andy: “Tonight’s recipient has done a lot more for Carthage than I have. I’m going to tell a quick story. Back in 1975 I desperately needed a job and I wanted to pursue a job in art. Nobody believed I would find a job in the art world. I didn’t even think I would, but I was going to give it a try.

I was told to go visit with this man and I spent three hours with him. 1975! In an old farmhouse—cold and drafty. He was so enthusiastic, when I left that farmhouse two people in Jasper County believed I could be an artist.

He’s done so much for Carthage! His work has depicted farm life in America. Thousands and thousands of people from across America have come to Carthage to visit him. They still visit him. You can’t go out and visit without being interrupted by someone who wants to meet him. He is in my eyes the greatest artist I have ever known. He’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, and I’ve known some great people.

And so I’ve done a special piece of artwork (that I hope you get a chance to come over and look at) to commemorate the great, the great!—Lowell Davis.”

With four hundred people rising to their feet and clapping with waves of enthusiasm, Lowell Davis slowly stood from his seat beside his wife, the beautiful and wise Rose. Leaning lightly on his cane, accompanied by my husband, artCentral’s Prepitor, David Greenwood-Mathé, Lowell made his way down front, up the steps and onto the stage. Beckoned by Andy’s firmly insisting “You have to come up Lowell,” he stopped some distance back from the podium.  With my hand placed in the center of his back and giving him a very gentle nudge forward, Lowell just stood planted there as tears coursed down his weathered cheeks and Academy Award winner’s music blared over the loud speakers. Competing applause continued until a surreal hush of expectant silence fell as though waiting and listening for words from this great Carthage treasure.

Andy spoke again, pointing to his original sculpture-enhanced oil painting explaining: “Lowell, that’s you and me that night I came out and visited. This is the world you created with all your art work!” to which Lowell choked back a sob to exclaim, “Wow!”

Andy: “Say something, Lowell.”

Lowell: “Can’t! I can’t!”

Andy: “Yes you can. I risked cryin’. You can, too.”

Composing himself, Lowell finally leaned forward and began to speak softly and clearly with conviction.

Lowell: “Let me tell you a little story. When I got out of the Air Force I went to the Dallas-Fort worth area as an art director for a big ad agency.” His voice breaking with more tears, “Excuse me…for a big ad agency and after fifteen years I couldn’t stand the big city anymore,” more tears, “so I moved back to Carthage and Andy would come out and see me. And he’d ask me questions about art, and I’d try to answer them. But if I’d known then that he would turn out to be…” more tears coming, voice breaking, “a much better artist than me…” sobbing, “I would have broke his fingers!”

Andy: “That is Lowell!” The crowd roars and rises again clapping madly as these two great men leave the stage together with Andy’s amazing painting between them.

For more art world excitement come to Hyde House Friday, February 1, 2019, 6:00-8:00 p.m. for the free-to-the-public Opening Reception for “Arti Gras”, a blockbuster mixed media extravaganza presented by the talented artists of the Joplin Regional Artists Coalition. Call (417) 358-4404 for more information.