Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Future of Texas Women's History

Yesterday I attended a stellar panel discussion at the Bullock State History Museum in Austin, held as part of a new exhibit entitled Women Shaping Texas in the 20th Century, Dr. Paula Mitchell Marks, a distinguished historian of Texas women’s history served as guest curator of this exhibit, which will be a featured exhibit at the Bullock until May 19, 2013. This detailed and comprehensive exhibit, officially opened this weekend, considers the role that Texas women have played in shaping the history of the Lone Star State. As the exhibition material notes:  “The story of Texas wouldn't be complete without the many histories of the determined women who stepped out and stepped up to fight for rights, improve public services, and help create the state that we know today. Re-encounter inspirational and pioneering Texas women such as Barbara Jordan, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Clara Driscoll, and Juanita Craft ... but then discover the impact of countless other women and women's groups in the fields of business, education, civil rights, healthcare, government, the arts, and the preservation of both natural and historic landmarks.” The panel discussion held yesterday attracted a large audience of individuals, not only from Austin but from around the state. Every panelist was an historian who has done significant work on the history of Texas with special reference to the important contributions women have made. Moderated by Paula Mitchell Marks, the panel included Merline Petrie, Rebecca Sharpless, Jean A. Stuntz, Nancy Baker Jones, Judith A. McArthur, Cynthia Orozco, and Elizabeth Hayes Turner. The discussion focused on the social, cultural, economic, political, and public policy contributions of women to Texas history, while also considering a wide variety of issues related to gender and race. Each panelist reviewed important historical studies relating to their fields of expertise and commented about trends they saw for the future in the study of Texas Women’ history. It was a most interesting and worthwhile event.

Click here for a link to the exhibition website at the Bullock. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rededication of Austin Hall

I participated on Saturday, October 20 in the re-dedication of Austin Hall on the campus of Sam Houston State University. This building served as the home of Austin College from 1851 until 1876. When Austin College moved to Sherman, this historic building became the home of what is now Sam Houston State University. This historical structure recently underwent an extensive renovation. This $2 million project was needed to repair years of deterioration and interior problems to preserve the 160-year-old building. It has lived through the Civil War, Reconstruction, several hurricanes and even a devastating fire in 1982 that destroyed nearby buildings. Austin Hall will now serve as a special events center for receptions. Speakers at this event included S.H.S.U. President Dana Gibson; the Mayor of Huntsville Mac Woodward:  Brian McCall,  Chancellor of the Texas State University System, and me. My remarks surveyed the history of the building when it served as the administration and classroom home for Austin College. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

East Texas Historical Association

Me with Bill O'Neal

The East Texas Historical Association met September 27-29 at the Historic Fredonia Hotel in Nacogdoches, Texas. A highlight of the meeting was a special tribute to the late Archie P. McDonald, who was the long-time executive director of the Association. This meeting also marked the celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the association which was founded in 1962. This featured a special reception for all of the past presidents of the Association. This is a special time for me because also attending was my successor as the State Historian of Texas, Bill O’Neal of Carthage Texas. Bill is a long-time professor of history at Panola College. He has written a shelf full of books dealing with the history of Texas, especially frontier violence and gunfighters. He is a very active member of the Western Rountable and is one of the most sought-after public speakers on western gunfighter history. He is also a former president of the East Texas Historian Association and was honored with his other presidential colleagues at the meeting. I gave a paper in a session of Texas women’s history chaired by Mary L. Sheer of Lamar University. She is the editor of the recent book Women and the Texas Revolution published by the University of North Texas Press. The three papers in this session, including mine, were all given by authors who had chapters in that book. My paper was a survey of the role that women played in the Runaway Scrape. Jeff Dunn and Laura McLemore also gave papers in that session. This spring the East Texas Historical Association will be meeting in Galveston.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Digital Frontiers: The Promise of Digital Humanities

The University of North Texas Libraries and The Portal to Texas History hosted on Friday, September 21, a national conference dealing with the uses and applications of digital humanities. It focused on using digital resources for research, teaching, and learning. The conference featured a keynote address by Michael Millner, Director of the Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for Public Humanities at the University of Massachusetts--Lowell. The conference had dual hosts. The first was Dr. Spencer Keralis, who is Director of the Digital Scholarship Co-Operative at the University of North Texas. The second host was the staff of the Portal to Texas History, led by Cathy Hartman. She is the Associate Dean of Libraries at the University and heads the Portal to Texas History. The goals of this conference were to bring a broad community of users together to share their work and to explore the value and the impact that digital resources have on education and research. As the promotional materials for this conference noted: “Digital libraries provide unprecedented access to a wide array of materials. This has dramatically expanded the possibilities of primary source research in the humanities and related fields.”
Dr, Randi Tanglen making her presentation on the classroom use of digital humanities
John West, Director of Austin College’s Abell Library, Dr. Randi L.Tanglen, Assistant Professor of English at Austin College, and I attended the conference. I was pleased that several speakers made reference to how I employ the digital humanities in my own teaching and in my historical research based on earlier talks I have given about the digital humanities at other conferences. I was even more pleased that my colleague Randi Tanglen gave a formal presentation during one of the afternoon sessions. The title of her remarks was: “Using Public Humanities Resources to Teach “Recovery Projects in the Literary Archive.” She provided a full explanation of the pedagogical techniques she uses in a her seminar dealing with the recovery and analysis of lost texts available on the internet from various digital sources. The students in this class also make websites that provide an exposition of the texts that they have recovered and analyzed.

To learn more about the Portal to Texas History, Click Here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Teaching Conference on History

The History Department of the University of North Texas today held its annual Teaching Conference on History (TCON), an event that has been taking place for almost twenty years. Begun by UNT professors Randolph B. Campbell and Donald Chipman, this year’s conference took place under the direction of history professor Walt Roberts. This conference provides recent information on history for secondary teachers throughout the region. Traditionally, several hundred teachers attend. Each year TCON revolves around a special theme. This year’s special emphasis was “Turning Points in History.” This is also the theme for the 2012 National History Day. Guest speakers included: Dr. Sam Haynes (University of Texas at Arlington), Dr. Todd Moye (University of North Texas), Dr. Owen Stanwood (Boston College), Dr. Alan Gallay (Texas Christian University), Dr. Nancy Stockdale (University of North Texas), Dr. Robert Citino (University of North Texas), Dr. Ricky Dobbs (Texas A&M University at Commerce), Dr. Christian Fritz (University of New Mexico School of Law), and me.
Light Cummins speaking at TCON
I spoke on the Sieur de la Salle and his seventeenth century explorations as a turning point in North American colonial history. In my remarks, I noted that the teaching of turning points can be a very valuable pedagogical strategy. It is thus understandable that the unifying theme for the 2013 National History Day is “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events.” As the current promotional literature for this program notes of a turning point: “It is an idea, event or action that directly, and sometimes indirectly, caused change. This change could be social or cultural, affecting a society’s way of thinking or way of acting. It could be political, leading to new legislation or to a new government taking charge. It could be economic, affecting how goods are produced, bought and sold, or how much or how little a society has to spend on such items. A turning point can even cause all of these changes and more.” This certainly the case in considering the exploration and colony-founding attempts of Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, one of the best-know Frenchmen of the colonial period of United State history. 
La Salle
His activities constituted a significant turning point that moved the European frame of reference from the Atlantic coast to the interior of the continent and the Gulf of Mexico. It was his activities that opened the vast interior of North America to European expansion while it ushered into reality the beginnings of intense inter-colonial rivalry between France, and Spain, eventually spilling over to England as well. This took place for La Salle in three waves of effort: first, his attempt to dominate the fur trade on the western Great Lakes during the mid to late 1670s; second, his trip down the Mississippi River to its mouth in the early 1680s; and thirds, his unsuccessful attempt to establish a French post on the western Gulf of Mexico in Spanish territory within the modern boundaries of the state of Texas. A single vision comprehended all of these activities: to locate a water route to the Indies while, at the same time, weakening King Louis XIV’s great international rival Spain in the Americas. In the process, as well, La Salle naturally hoped to garner a great personal fortune as well as part of the process.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Roots of Texoma Regionalism

Annual Event Luncheon, Texoma Council of Governments
Photo North Texas E-News
Today I was the keynote speaker at the Annual Event held by the Texoma Council of Governments. Several hundred public servants, business leaders, elected office holders, and guests from across Texoma attended. It was my task to speak on the theme “The Roots of Regionalism” here in Texoma. In my talk, I noted that Texas is an amalgamation of regions. Those regional identifies are linked to our history, our topography, and our economy, and our demography. One can argue that history is the most powerful determinant of region. Regionalism is based absolutely in the reality of our past and is not artificially manufactured from fiction. It was my main theme that Texoma is a sustainable region on its own terms. In Texoma we have a common history, an interlocking commercial and a civic heritage that works to give Cooke, Grayson, and Fannin Counties a strong regional identity.We have many region-wide assets that, although identified with a particular city, county, or private concern, are used by people from all over Texoma.  There are many, many regional assets of a public and private nature that tie this region together and we all use them no matter where we live. I regularly dine in restaurants located in Tioga, Collinsville, Whitesboro, Denison, Pottsboro, Sherman, Whitewright, and Bonham, and also in Oklahoma. When visitors come, we spend time in museums and other attractions in Cooke, Grayson, and Fannin counties. We shop at stores and retail concerns all over the area. In many respects, Texoma functions for its residents as if it were one large city, which of course, it is not. It is a region. 

In my remarks, I mentioned a number of places that make this entire region one sustainable entity. One such place for me is the Waterloo Pool in Denison. A while back, I suffered a serious injury to my leg that required two extensive operations along with several months in the hospital, with my thereafter being temporarily confined to a wheel chair. My successful recovery was materially augmented in a significant way by the outstanding public hydrofitness exercise venue at the Waterloo Pool. I go there almost daily although I am a resident of Sherman. It is my belief that I am walking without leg braces and a cane in very large part because of the Waterloo pool, which I believe provides one of the best public pools in the State of Texas for people who seek hydrofitness exercise, along of course for those who just wish to swim in an all-weather, year round place. People from Denison and those from all over the Texoma region use the pool. Those of us who are not from Denison are happy to pay non-resident admission fees. I therefore submit that the Waterloo Pool is a Denison treasure that is also a regional asset enriching the lives of people across Texoma.
The Waterloo Pool
There are thus a considerable number of such public entities and private businesses that, like the Waterloo pool, are doing an excellent job in sustaining a very meaningful regionalism for Texoma. TAPS has become a model transportation resource that wields together our region. So too is the Texoma Council of Governments a successful force for regional cooperation. Vibrant and profitable regionalism can be seen currently in the private sector with our region-wide banking and retail concerns. Can more be done?  Of course, such is absolutely the case. And it would not be an overwhelming task because we have a solid base upon which to build in presenting the Texoma region to the rest of the state and the nation. I closed my remarks by noting there are great possibilities and potentials ahead of us in making this region stronger. We can welcome opportunity to meet the assured future growth of Texoma on our own terms. For Texoma, the sum has always been greater, richer, and more rewarding that the component parts. Such will be the case for the future if we are successful in managing the growth that will surely occur in the coming decades across the Texoma region with cooperation, coordination, and contemplation of our mutual interests.

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Book: Women and the Texas Revolution

Mary L. Scheer
This month marks publication of a new book, Women and the Texas Revolution, edited by Mary L. Scheer of Lamar University. I have an essay in this book entitled "Up Buck! Up Ball! Do Your Duty!": Women and the Runaway Scrape." Other essays in the book have been written by historians Lindy Eakin, Jean A. Stuntz, Mary Scheer, Angela Boswell, Dora Elizondo Guerra, Jeffrey D. Dunn, and Laura Lyons McLemore. The director of the University of North Texas Press, Ronald Chrisman, and his staff, have done a commendable job of creating a first-class volume. This book is one of the first publications to consider explicitly the role that women played in the Texas Revolution, examining Anglo-American, Tejana, Native American, and Black women in an inclusive manner. It is the hope of everyone involved in the writing and production of this book that it will become a useful title for readers who want to broaden their knowledge about the Texas Revolution and the important role that women have played in the history of the Lone Star State. Early comments about the book in this regard are every encouraging. Noted historian James L. Haley, who has written a number of best-selling titles found on Texas history bookshelves, has said: "The gathering of scholars in this book is formidable. They have produced a well-done series of well documented vignettes of women in the revolutionary period." Historian Paula Mitchell Marks observes "Women and the Texas Revolution is a fresh and valuable addition to works on the Revolution and on women in nineteenth-century Texas. It is a serious and multifaceted treatment of a topic that has come in for very little scholarly study."

Click Here for the University of North Texas Press page on this book.

Click Here for page on this book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bill O'Neal Appointed Texas State Historian

Bill O'Neal, the new Texas State Historian
The Governor of Texas has today announced the appointment of Bill O'Neal of Carthage as the new Texas State Historian. He has been a member of the faculty at Panola College since 1970 and, although retired, he continues to teach classes there. O'Neal has written over forty books about the history of Texas and the Southwest, along with several hundred articles, essays, and reviews. His predominate specialty is the history of the Old West and he is considered a preeminent expert on frontier violence, outlaws, and gunslingers. In 2007, True West Magazine named him the "best living non-fiction author" writing about the American western frontier. He has appeared in a number of television documentaries that have been broadcast on the History Channel, the BBC, the Discovery Channel and the Turner Broadcasting System. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Bill O'Neal as he takes up his new duties.

Click here for the official announcement from the Governor's Press Office.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Writing With a Sense of Place

Joe Nick Patoski (center first row) and the seminar
Is there a difference between being an author and a writer? Until last week, I would have said yes, because it has long been my contention that authors and writers are not the same literary animal. My opinion was that historians (including myself) are authors only. We are not writers. Academic historians research and write synthetic works of historical analysis. What we say is potentially more important to us than how we say it. Writers, in particular those who deal in non-fiction, were to me a different breed of folk. They have the freedom to write from their feelings, observations, and opinions in ways that academic historians do not. The way a writer says something with their words can be the main event of what they write.

My mind has been changed about this and I now contend there is no difference between a good writer and a good author. Historians are writers, or at least they should attempt to be. This revelation came to me because I recently attended the summer writing workshop sponsored by the Writer's League of Texas. The League holds this annual event at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. I was one of almost a dozen students in a seminar taught by Joe Nick Patoski, who is one of the most wide-published writers in the southwestern United States. "Writing with Sense of Place" served as the title and frame of reference for this seminar.

Joe Nick Patoski
Joe Nick Patoski has written a shelf-full of books that people read everyday. His forthcoming book on the history of the Dallas Cowboys promises to be a true blockbuster. Joe Nick put all of us attending the seminar through our writing paces while he engaged in a constantly fascinating barrage of animated talk that explained literally everything he knew about how to be a writer. His talk is the equal of his writing. Over the course of the week he extemporaneously spoke a book to us verbally. Its title could have been "How To Be a Good Writer." It was a magnum opus.

Tom Michael and Rachael Osler Lindley visited the seminar to talk about their radio station, KRTS, 93.5 FM. This PBS station, popularly known as Marfa Public Radio, is one of the smaller public broadcasting stations in the nation. It mounts each day a full schedule of national and local programs, many of which highlight writers and their work. It was fun while in Alpine to tune-in KRTS on my radio dial instead of being an internet listener, my usual means of hearing the station. Historian Lonn Taylor also visited our group to read from his latest book, Rambling Boy, and talk about his very popular writing. Taylor writes a regular column for the Big Sentinel in addition to being heard regularly on Marfa Public Radio. Curator Mary Bones took us on a tour of the Museum of the Big Bend, something that regally highlighted our sense of place about the region.

The fine writing and cogent comments manifested by the other participants in the seminar, many of whom are also published writers, served as powerful reinforcements to Joe Nick's writing exercises, the class visitors, and our group discussions. I was happy with my participation because I was able to shake the archival dust off some of the things that I wrote in the seminar. In fact, a few things I put on paper actually read as if they had been written by a writer.

For Joe Nick Patoski's website, Click Here.
For the Writer's League of Texas website, Click Here.
For Marfa Public Radio, Cllick Here.
For Lonn Taylor's column, Rambling Boy, Click Here.
For the Museum of the Big Bend, Click Here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Reading from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Several years ago Michael Gillette, Executive Director of Humanities Texas, began canvassing writers, academics, authors, and others throughout Texas in a very successful effort to garner summer reading selections from them. This annual reading list is always a very popular feature of the Humanities Texas newsletter which appears online each summer. Over the years, I have learned about dozens of fine books that have greatly enriched my summer reading fun. The National Endowment for the Humanities has highlighted this Humanities Texas annual list in its current web-based newsletter. The NEH article contains sample suggestions from several Texas authors and writers. Those included are Steven L. Davis, Norma Cantu, Shirline Bridgewater, Crista Deluzio, Noami Shahib Nye, and me. My recommendation centered on Stephen Harrigan's Remember Ben Clayton, a book that I very much enjoyed. Good Reading to you this summer. 

For the National Endowment for the Humanities article, Click Here.
For the full list from Humanities Texas, Click Here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Frank Reaugh: Pastel Poet of the Texas Plains

Film Crew Setting Up
I had the very interesting and exciting experience being filmed as a "talking head" by noted independent film maker Marla Fields, who is currently making a documentary on the life of famed Texas artist Frank Reaugh. He is best known as the painter to the longhorns. Reaugh was a pioneer artist who lived from 1860 until 1945, spending most of his career in Dallas. His home and studio still stands in Oak Cliff. In the 1880s, he attended art school in St. Louis and eventually studied at the Académie Julian in Paris during the winter of 1888–89. Moving to Dallas in 1890, Reaugh quickly became enthralled with the cattle kingdom and routinely made trips to the western part of the state to paint longhorns. He painted thousands of such images while he became one of the most accomplished art teachers in early twentieth century Texas. Starting in the early years of the twentieth century, Reaugh began leading summer expeditions for his students that ranged over vast parts of West Texas. He and his students painted as they travelled, first by wagon and then by automobile. Back home in Dallas, he established a public art gallery at the library in 1903 and founded the Dallas Art Association. That latter organization was the forerunner of the modern Dallas Museum of Art. Today, the Pan Handle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon has the largest public collection of his work. Marla Fields is currently making a documentary of Reaugh's life that involves the participation of historians, artists, museum curators, and art critics. It was my task to set Reaugh's life into historical context within the larger scope of Texas History.

For information about Marla Fields' documentary "Frank Reaugh:  Pastel Poet of the Plains." Click Here.

For information about Frank Reaugh, see a website maintained by Lucretia Donnell Coke, one of his last surviving students. Click Here

Monday, July 9, 2012

Researching the Life of Stella Shurtleff

Sarah Powell and Victoria Cummins
 at the Archives of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts
Victoria Cummins and I spent the first week of July in Houston at the Woodson Resarch Center at Rice University, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, and the Archives of Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Our purpose was to gather material about early 20th century Texas art critic Stella Shurtleff, one of the women we are including in our project "Muses to Modern Culture: Women and the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Texas, 1919-1942."  While researching in the Archives of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, we were proud to encounter archivist Sarah Powell, who is a 2008 graduate of Austin College and who took a number of my history classes. We are glad that AC history students are doing well and being successful as is the case for Sarah, who is pictured above with Vicki. We found a tremendous amount of useful information on Ms. Shurtleff, who is pictured below.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Southern Association of Women's Historians

TCU Professor Rebecca Sharpless, Conference Director
Victoria Cummins and I attended the conference of the Southern Association of Women's Historians held at TCU in Fort Worth from June 7 to June 9. Several hundred historians from across the country attended and participated in almost four dozen paper sessions. The conference was spearheaded by Professor of Rebecca Sharpless of the TCU History Department, who did a stellar job of organizing a memorable meeting. Plenary speakers included Juiana Barr. Wilma King, and Pippa Holloway. A highlight of the meeting was a dinner on Saturday evening at the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art. The Southern Association of Women's Historians meets annually in conjunction with the Southern Historical Association, publishes a newsletter, awards publication prizes, and sponsors the Southern Conference on Women’s history every three years.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Talk on Allie V. Tennant at CASETA

Kurt Howell, Allie Tennant's Cat Sculpture,
and Light Cummins at CASETA
CASETA, the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art, held its annual meeting in Fort Worth April 27 to 29. It had a full programs of talks and exhibits, including a show and sale from most of the major dealers of early Texas art at the annual Art Fair. The Amon Carter Museum and the Sid Richardson Foudation sponored and supported the meeting, with the membership having receptions at both venues in addition to the Texas Wesleyan School of Law. Speakers included Andrew Walker, Director of the Amon Carter Museum: Jack Davis, Dean Emeritus of the UNT College of Visual Arts:  J. P. Bryan, Art Collector; Mary Bones, Curator of the Museum of the Big Bend; and Deborah Fullerton, Curator of the Art Museum of South Texas. I was also one of the speakers.

I spoke on the life and career of sculptor Allie V. Tennant, about whom I have recently completed a manuscript biography. A highlight of my talk was the exhibiting of a rare Allie Tennant sculpture of a black cat brought to the meeting by its owner, Kurt Noel. Allie Victoria Tennant is best known as the sculptor who produced the iconic "Tejas Warrior" statue that graces the main entrance to the Hall of State at Fair Park in Dallas. She became an advocate in the 1920s of the regionalist movement that was then sweeping the nation's intellectual community. She associated herself with other Texas artists who also embraced regionalism as their credo, including Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, Alexandre Hogue, and others including Dorothy Austin, Mike Owen, and Evaline Sellors.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I am listed in the new Random House book "The Best 300 Professors"

I was today named  by the Princeton Review as one of the 300 best professors in the United States out of some 42,000 individuals teaching at all colleges and universities. Five of my Austin College faculty colleagues also received this designation: Randi Tanglen (English), Howard Starr (Psychology), Kevin Simmons (Economics), David Baker (Physics) and Stephanie Gould (Chemistry). Published today, The Best 300 Professors (Random House / Princeton Review, $19.99, April 3, 2012) profiles outstanding professors at 122 colleges.  The promotional materials for this book note that all of the professors won high praise from their most important audiences: the undergrad students they teach and inspire, class after class, year after year, in fields that range from Ancient Studies to Neuroscience to Sport Management.  The Princeton Review developed the project in partnership with and selected the professors in the book based on qualitative and quantitative data from survey findings and ratings collected by both organizations. The book's profiles of professors are organized by academic fields. More than 60 fields are represented from Accounting to Engineering to Writing, and within each field, the profiles are presented alphabetically by professor names. The Best 300 Professors also includes profiles of colleges at which one or more of the book's top-notch professors teach.  The school profiles give students considering attending these colleges information on admissions, tuition, SAT/ACT score ranges of admitted students, and other useful data.

Monday, April 2, 2012

West Texas Historical Association Meeting, 2012

This weekend marked the annual meeting of the West Texas Historical Association in Alpine, Texas on the campus of Sul Ross State University. My friend Bruce Glasrud presided over the meeting at the president, in the process delivering a very interesting address on the history of the West Texas Historical and Scientific Society. My relative E. E. Townsend was one of the founders of this group back in the 1920s. The society ceased to exist in the 1960s. At this meeting, Vicki Cummins presented a paper on the life of artist James Swann, who had attended Sul Ross in the late 1920s. He was a native of Merkel, Texas near Abilene and graduated from Sul Ross in 1927. There he studied with Elizabeth Keefer and Anna Elizabeth Keener. He was the art director for the Sul Ross yearbook and the president of the art club. He received most of his formal art training in Alpine. In the early 1930s, he settled in Dallas and became a recognized print-maker, studying with noted East Texas artist Frank E. Klepper. He moved to Chicago in 1935, where he spent the rest of his career. He maintained his ties with the Texas art community and many of his etchings reflected his west Texas origins. My paper dealt with the life of Frances B. Fisk.  She lived in Abilene in the 1920s and 1930s  before moving to Alpine, where her sister Willa was the wife of Horace Morlock, President of Sul Ross. Fisk, although not an artist, worked very hard to promote painting and sculpture in West Texas. She wrote a landmark 1928 reference book "A History Texas Artists and Sculptors" that is still used today. While in Alpine during the 1940s, Fisk worked closely with the artists at the Summer Art Colony, and with Militia Hill, chair of the Sul Ross Art Department. Mary Bones of the Museum of the Big Bend gave a paper in our session that dealt with the summer art colony at Alpine from the 1920s to the 1950s.The Art Department at Sul Ross State Teacher’s College established an Art Colony in 1932 by inviting guest artists and students to the high desert to challenge themselves in an unfamiliar landscape.  For over 15 years, the Art Colony was a successful and popular summer course

Monday, March 5, 2012

Louisiana Historical Association,New Orleans

Light Cummins, Steve Webre, Victoria Cummins,
and Ray McGowan in New Orleans
The fifty-fourth annual meeting of the Louisiana Historical Association met in New Orleans this weekend, from March 1 to March 4. Several hundred historians from across the nation attended. A wide variety of sessions dealt with all chronological periods of Louisiana history, along with a number of topics. Vicki Cummins and I both gave papers in a session entitled “Texans on the Waterways of Louisiana History.” Her paper was entitled “Artist Don Brown and the Pelican State.” Brown lived most of his early life in Marshall, Texas, where he attended what is now East Texas Baptist College. However, he spent the second half of his life in Louisiana. Brown founded the art department at Centenary College in Shreveport and taught there for almost twenty five years. Whether living in Texas or Louisiana, he considered himself primarily a resident of Caddo Lake, the singular natural environment connecting both states. Don Brown was a person of marked artistic talent which he developed very early in life. From his youth he also became a devoted boating enthusiast. He sailed, fished, drew, and painted Caddo Lake for decades as an adult. The flora and fauna of the lake became signature images in his work. Brown also sailed and painted the Mississippi and Red Rivers in boats that he built himself. He also established a reputation as an expert on north Louisiana history and folklore, a subject on which he published in newspapers and magazines.  He documented his trips on Louisiana waterways, including a trip down the Mississippi, in addition to writing newspaper articles about the legends of Caddo Lake and the early history of Shreveport. During the final decade of his life, Brown lived at Karnack, Texas while still teaching at Centenary. He was acknowledged as an authority on the life, legends, and history of Caddo Lake. Brown is still recognized as a significant painter, known for his depictions of the cypress trees and wildlife of Caddo Lake region. My paper was entitled “From the New Madrid Earthquakes to the Settlement at Velasco: The Stephen F. Austin Family on the Waterways of Louisiana.” Northwestern Louisiana had a shared history with eastern Texas in the years of initial Anglo-American movement west of the Sabine River. Louisiana waterways were crucial to the settlement of Texas by the Austin family as Louisiana waterways provided pathways into the new province. This paper will examine the activities of the Moses and Stephen F. Austin during the decade prior to the settlement of Texas. During those years, the Austin family lived at Potosi, Missouri where they engaged in lead mining and participated in various entrepreneurial schemes centered on southwestern development. This caused them to travel the waterways of the lower Mississippi valley, including the Great River and tributaries such as the Red River. For example, in the years after the War of 1812, Stephen F. Austin superintended lead shipments down the Mississippi to New Orleans. He made one such trip immediately following the spectacular New Madrid earthquakes, leaving a vivid and colorful description of what he witnessed while passing through parts of Louisiana. Then, later in that same decade, Moses and Stephen F. Austin decided to develop the Great Southwestern Trail from Missouri to the Red River as a settlement scheme. Austin lived on a plantation located on the Red River and also founded the town of Fulton, Arkansas. In that capacity, he advocated clearing the great raft. In 1822, Stephen F. Austin was living at New Orleans when he decided to take up the settlement of Texas after the death of his father Moses. New Orleans thus became one of the main departure points for the settlement of Texas from the mouth of the Mississippi to the first settlement of Velasco on the Texas coast. I was elected Vice President of the Louisiana Historical Association at its business meeting.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Laying the Foundation: UNT Art Faculty, 1890-1970

Dr. Jack Davis Talks about the Exhibition

Today I attended a special event held in Denton, Texas at UNT on the Square, an art gallery maintained by the University of North Texas. The occasion was a meeting of the Texas Art Collector's Organization hosted by Dr. D Jack Davis and Herbert Holl, the curators of the show "Laying the Foundation: UNT Art Faculty, 1890-1970." Dr. Jack Davis is a professor emeritus at the University and a former dean of the College of Visual Arts and Design. Holl is he director of the UNT Institute for Advancement of the Arts. This exhibit highlighted the history of the art program at the university from 190 until 1970, providing many examples of the work of the various artists who served on the faculty during those years. "I have wanted to do something like this for a very long time," says Davis. "All of the years I was involved in administration in the arts program, I recognized that we had a rich legacy. We wouldn't be where we are today had we not had these faculty members building the program." The exhibition shows works in all sorts of mediums: paintings in oil, tempera, and casein, sculptures in bronze, granite, stone, and walnut, serigraph prints, collage, Among the early works are those of Martha Simkins, a well-known portrait painter who taught at Denton from 1901 to 1906. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Texas Writers Talk

Speaking at "Texas Writers Talk"
This weekend the Philosophical Society of Texas met in Dallas at the Adolphus Hotel. "Texas Writers Talk" was the group's theme this year, thanks to the motivation of its president Fran Vick, the well-known and accomplished publisher. Vick assembled a group of writers, most of whom live in the state, to talk about their work. Also, the participants were asked to comment on the impact digitization might have on the world of writing and publishing. Steven Davis and Mark Busby provided overviews of Texas literary history. Panels saw stellar fiction writers including Elizabeth Crook, Jane Roberts Wood, and Stephen Harrigan appear on the dais, along with poet Karla Morton and writer Paula Mitchell Marks. The audience was large and very attentive, filled with questions and insights about the status of Texas writing. I was a member of a panel that addressed the subject of researching and writing Texas history. Also speaking with me were Randolph B. Campbell, James Crisp, Andres Tijerina and Gregg Cantrell. I addressed questions of historical research, noting that the primary task of the historian is interpretation rather than the rote assembling of facts. A panel with Kent Calder of the Texas State Historical Association, Ron Crisman of the University of North Texas Press, and Caitlin Churchill of the Texas A&M University Press addressed the future of digitization, all of them agreeing that there are profound changes on the horizon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Lost Colony: Texas Regional Paintings

James Swann Rural Free Delivery
The Museum of the Big Bend has been running an exhibit entitled "The Lost Colony: Texas Regional Pairings" that chronicles the history of a summer camp for artists held in the Big Bend region at Alpine, Texas on the campus of Sul Ross State University. This camp began in 1932 and continued until 1950. A series of well known Texas artists taught and studied at the camp. It attracted students, many of them practicing artists, who wished to refine and improve their technique.  Mary Bones of the museum staff served as curator of this exhibit, gathering dozens of art works from across the nation representing those artists who taught or studied at the summer encampment. These include a number of well-known individuals including Mabel Vandiver, Anna Keener, Elizabeth Keefer Boatwright, Julius Woeltz, Xavier Gonzalez, Harry Anthony De Young, William Lester, James Swann, Otis Dozier, and others. My wife Victoria and I loaned three of our James Swann prints for this exhibition, including our favorite, Rural Free Delivery seen above. As the catalog of this exhibits notes: "The success of the Art Department and the Art Colony can be measured in the number of students that attended, the works they produced, and the continued excellence of the Art Department at Sul Ross State University.
Katherine Cummins admires her family's Swann print at exhibit

For more about this exhibit, visit the website of the Museum of the Big Bend. Click here