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Inside the Artist’s Studio: The Unstoppable Joe French: My Heroes Are Real People

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By Derrick White

Recently, while I was sitting in a local emergency waiting room, officers from the sheriff’s department entered the hospital, as they occasionally do, with a patient. They were escorting their client across the crowded, anxiety-filled room, when suddenly one of the officers stopped, turned, and headed directly for me. Shaking my hand heartily, he turned to his partner, smiled, and said, “this is my art professor!” We visited briefly about how well he was doing and he mentioned how much he enjoyed my class. Wow! Here was a former student from years ago, a graduate working in his chosen career, and he remembers fondly the time spent in a community college art class.

joe-french-tyler-tx-eguide-1These types of rewards are hard to measure and difficult to put a price on but as a teacher, I will tell you ‘satisfaction in the success of former students’ is one of the best benefits of the whole gig. This encounter reminded me of the author Maya Angelou’s quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I teach to the best of my ability with the understanding that my students go on to become the people with whom my family and I share our community – nurses, police officers, artists, teachers, etc. When I get surprise visits from former students it always makes my day. When someone takes the time to stop by, say hello, introduce their new baby, or invite me to their latest art event after taking a class 10 years ago, I am soft-soaped and it affirms what I do for my day job.

I had a visit from one of my favorite former students just the other day. I first met artist, Joe French, from Longview, back in 2007 when he absent-mindedly wandered into the art department, asking to borrow some paper. He returned to show me the drawings he had made (instead of taking notes), and I encouraged him to continue to create. Before I knew it, Joe was an art major involved and immersed in every art class we offered and every process he could learn. Thoughtfully engaged and concerned, Joe became an officer in the art club, volunteered his time and talent to community service projects, and was selected as a performance grant scholarship student.

joe frenchJoe carried his excitement and exploration to the University of North Texas in Denton, where he investigated the evolution of his creative process and even some destructive methods such as burning canvases with holes, painting with flames, and at times scorching work completely to ash. After finishing at UNT, Joe returned as a special guest speaker for our 2012 annual Thunderdome art competition, an outrageous and fun contest with only one winner. All the losing art pieces are lavishly destroyed by the annihilators, giving students an inspiring speech to follow their dreams. Joe challenged them to live unafraid. Anyone who knows Joe French will absolutely concur about his passion for life, people, community, art, friendship, and love. He is a big, bearded man who, once he sees you from across the room, approaches with a big unavoidable bear hug. Joe later moved to Central America to keep his charitable spirit fed by teaching English and Art in Honduras, fulfilling his dream to give back to the community of his family’s heritage. Everything was perfect…and then the roof caved in.

Catastrophically, in December of 2013, Joe French was savagely assaulted and robbed in Puerto Cortés, Honduras. While walking the two blocks home after his school’s Christmas party, he was shot five times, including once in the head, while being mugged by a gang of young thugs who stole his cell phone. Miraculously Joe survived the attack and was taken to the hospital. After some amazing and immediate online funding efforts by his family and friends, Joe was flown by specialized helicopter to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas where he has undergone multiple surgeries along with extensive physical and occupational therapy, and he continues to battle, fight, and persevere to this day.

Joe was an inspiring guy before, and he is an incredibly inspiring guy now. My heroes are real people, ones that do not give up and cannot be stopped. Joe French says, “I will get better, better, better.” When Joe paid me this visit, he was doing well and he continues to create and recover. Amazingly, Joe is walking, talking and once again making artwork and involving himself in the therapeutic progression of having a creative outlet. Satisfaction in former students is indeed one of the best benefits of my career.

joe-french-tyler-tx-eguid 2eJoe is a passionate and caring individual. He is a ‘people person’ who is friendly and immediately likable. Joe is community minded and has volunteered many times, including being involved with canned food drives and offering to do face painting at the annual MDA Walk at Broadway Square Mall. Joe French is a key member of the current regional art movement, a dedicated group of active artists involved in events and exhibitions. Joe has helped with local happenings as well as participated in exhibitions at area venues and alternative music and exhibition spaces. “I yearn for self-expression! I strive to provide an outlet for the common individual, a place of departure. I believe those who search long enough will find what they’re looking for. I believe this is my purpose, my addiction, my burden. I believe a search for visual and emotional expression is called for in everyone’s life. I hope to explore all visual boundaries and leave nothing behind,” Joe says.

Joe is one of those rare and special people with a passion for life. He works hard to inspire those around him. He shares what he loves and his creativity with others. I, like many others, hope for a local community supportive of its striving visual artists. East Texans should support one of our own and give encouragement to Joe and his family to assist with the unimaginable medical expenses. This is your opportunity to show you are willing to sponsor a vital asset to our area and purchase one of a kind, original art by a local, living Texas contemporary artist.

Buy local. Buy Joe. We desperately need supportive community art collectors. My heroes are real people.

For more information please visit www.frenchmadeart.com or on Facebook look up “Recovery of Miracle Joe French.”

‪ #‎eguidemagazine‬‬ ‪#‎tylertx‬‬‬ ‪#‎ilovetylertx‬‬‬ ‪#‎downtowntyler‬‬‬ ‪#‎VisitTyler‬‬‬ ‪#‎EastTX‬‬‬ #TylerArtsDistrict #tylerlivemusic ‬

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Art

Art Events Warming Up For Summer

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Events & Classes

First Saturday of every Month (10am-2pm) – Eastside Fiber ARTist Meeting – The monthly meeting will be held at the Tyler Public Library, 301 S. College Ave, Downtown Tyler. Please join the monthly meetings and participate in a variety of fiber arts from quilting, weaving, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, jewelry making, and mixed media and tons more. Guests and visitors are always welcomed. For more info go to facebook.com/Eastside.Fiber.ARTists. It is free to attend.

May 20th and June 3rd (10am-2pm) – Beginning Stained Glass Class – This beginner’s class will be held at Hobby Lobby, 1909 ESE Loop 323, Tyler. Learn all the skills necessary to create a beautiful stained glass piece with the copper foil technique. This is a beginning class and participants will learn how to work with patterns, cut glass, grind glass, copper foil, solder and much more. By the end of the class participants will take home their own art glass. No prior experience is required. All tools are provided for students use during class time. Tools and equipment are shared amongst students. Register at email pdonathan@ymail.com. Cost is $65 per person.

June 6th (6-8pm) – 6×6@110 Exhibit – The 6×6@110 is an annual art fundraising project to benefit Gallery Main Street in Downtown Tyler. The gallery is a City of Tyler facility operated with cooperation of the Downtown Tyler Arts Coalition, an all-volunteer group of artists who schedule and jury fine arts exhibits and organize projects. All of the net proceeds of 6×6@110 will go to support those activities. The name “6×6@110” reflects the fact that all artwork sold in the show will be 6”x6”, and will be shown at Gallery Main Street, located at 110 W. Erwin. You can pick up canvases at the gallery through May 30th.

June 16th (11am-11:30pm) June 17th (11am-4pm) – Junebug Art and Music Festival – Calling all artists! Junebug is an annual community Art and Music festival with an afternoon farmers market. This event encompasses art in its many forms. There will be teachers of weaving and soap making, along with hands on pottery wheel demonstrations. Attendees senses will be engulfed by the sights, sound, smell and feel of all that is to be offered at this very unique art event in a very quaint little artsy community. The show will offer up a stage filled with eclectic musicians, bands, and songwriters. Saturday there will be a community Farmers market where locals can sell their organic and/or locally sourced products. Vendor and artist applications are available at theforgebenwheeler.com. The family-friendly festival, which is located in the tiny art enclave of Ben Wheeler,TX, highlights the work of artists, musicians, and artisans from the Lone Star state. Headquartered on the three-acre park-like property surrounding the FORGE (a local restaurant, bar, and music venue), the festival will give attendees an opportunity to witness the creative process through “live art” displays as well as the chance to actively join in the process. For more information email junebugsummerfair@gmail.com

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14th Annual High School Art Exhibition at TMA

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This Month at Tyler Museum of Art:

14th Annual High School Art Exhibition on Exhibit

The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and most major holidays. The Museum is supported by its members, Tyler Junior College, and the City of Tyler. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001, tylermuseum.org, or email info@tylermuseum.org.

TMA’s 14th Annual High School Art Exhibition on Exhibit Through May 6th

An unprecedented number of aspiring artists from local schools will have their first opportunity for a full museum exhibition with the Tyler Museum of Art’s “14th Annual High School Art Exhibition,” continuing through May 6th at the Museum. The museum is located Tyler Junior main Campus is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. Admission is free.

What began in 2005 as a small showcase for 23 students from four area high schools has blossomed into a major exhibition and community event. This year’s juried competition tops the previous record of 2016, spotlighting for the first time the work of more than 100 students from a best-ever 14 high-school campuses in Tyler and nearby cities.

The community is invited to meet the participating artists, enjoy light refreshments – and cast their votes for the annual Viewers’ Choice Award to be presented at the exhibition’s conclusion. Ballots are available at the Visitor Services desk in the TMA lobby.

Participating schools in the “14th Annual High School Art Exhibition” include All-Saints Episcopal School, Bishop T.K. Gorman Regional Catholic School, Cumberland Academy, Grace Community School, John Tyler High School and Robert E. Lee High School, all of Tyler; The Brook Hill School, Brownsboro High School, Bullard High School, Chapel Hill High School, Elkhart High School, Frankston High School, Whitehouse High School and Winona High School.

Support for the exhibition is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Platinum Sponsor The Rogers Foundation; and Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors Martha and Randy Key, McElfatrick Charitable Foundation and Myrtis D. Smith.

“Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman”

Tyler Museum of Art celebrates the arrival of springtime with a quarter-century survey in the career of one of the most diverse and prolific contemporary Texas artists. “Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman” continues through June 3rd in the museum’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.

The exhibition, organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, features more than 40 pieces spanning a dynamic body of work by Altman, a Fort Worth-based artist noted for her ability to move between various series across an eclectic array of media.

“Sticks and Stones” focuses on her fascination with flora and fauna, which “have been a much-appreciated constant in my life,” the artist said. “They have been a constant source of joy and also a source of coping.”

Altman’s specific choices of media throughout her career – blankets, wire birds, egg editions, and torch drawings, to name just a few – also reflect a pronounced emphasis on exploring the unique in the everyday.

“Many of my works use commonplace materials and objects. I respond to ready-made objects that are often discards or flawed in some obvious way,” she said. “Alterations in these familiar things elevate them and draw parallels to our own human predicament.”

Altman received both her bachelor of fine arts and master of arts degrees from the University of Alabama, as well as her master of fine arts from the University of North Texas. Her work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Art Museum of South East Texas, The Grace Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.

Support for “Sticks and Stones” is provided by Collectors’ Circle Platinum Sponsor The Byars Foundation.

Special events in connection with the exhibition include: Free First Friday tours at 11am May 4th and June 1st; and Family Days from 2-4pm Saturday, May 12th.

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Art

14th Annual High School Art Exhibit at Tyler Art Museum

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This Month at Tyler Museum of Art:

14th Annual High School Art Exhibition and “Sticks & Stones: Works by Helen Altman” on Exhibit

The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and most major holidays. The Museum is supported by its members, Tyler Junior College, and the City of Tyler. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001, tylermuseum.org, or email info@tylermuseum.org.

TMA’s 14th Annual High School Art Exhibition on Exhibit April 8th-May 6th

An unprecedented number of aspiring artists from local schools will have their first opportunity for a full museum exhibition with the Tyler Museum of Art’s “14th Annual High School Art Exhibition,” opening Sunday, April 8th and continuing through May 6th at the Museum. The museum is located Tyler Junior main Campus is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. Admission is free.

What began in 2005 as a small showcase for 23 students from four area high schools has blossomed into a major exhibition and community event. This year’s juried competition, tops the previous record of 2016, spotlighting for the first time the work of more than 100 students from a best-ever 14 high-school campuses in Tyler and nearby cities.

Five outstanding works as selected by the jurors will be presented with “Merit of Honor” awards during the Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony from 2:30-4pm, Sunday, April 8th at the Museum.

The community is invited to meet the participating artists, enjoy light refreshments – and cast their votes for the annual Viewers’ Choice Award to be presented at the exhibition’s conclusion. Ballots are available at the Visitor Services desk in the TMA lobby.

“Merit of Honor” winners will receive gift certificates from Dick Blick Art Materials. All participating artists will receive Certificates of Participation and one-year student memberships to the TMA. To RSVP for the April 8th opening reception, call (903)595-1001.

Participating schools in the “14th Annual High School Art Exhibition” include All-Saints Episcopal School, Bishop T.K. Gorman Regional Catholic School, Cumberland Academy, Grace Community School, John Tyler High School and Robert E. Lee High School, all of Tyler; The Brook Hill School, Brownsboro High School, Bullard High School, Chapel Hill High School, Elkhart High School, Frankston High School, Whitehouse High School and Winona High School.

Support for the exhibition is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Platinum Sponsor The Rogers Foundation; and Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors Martha and Randy Key, McElfatrick Charitable Foundation and Myrtis D. Smith.

“Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman”

Tyler Museum of Art celebrates the arrival of springtime with a quarter-century survey in the career of one of the most diverse and prolific contemporary Texas artists. “Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman” continues through June 3rd in the museum’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.

The exhibition, organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, features more than 40 pieces spanning a dynamic body of work by Altman, a Fort Worth-based artist noted for her ability to move between various series across an eclectic array of media.

“Sticks and Stones” focuses on her fascination with flora and fauna, which “have been a much-appreciated constant in my life,” the artist said. “They have been a constant source of joy and also a source of coping.”

Altman’s specific choices of media throughout her career – blankets, wire birds, egg editions, and torch drawings, to name just a few – also reflect a pronounced emphasis on exploring the unique in the everyday.

“Many of my works use commonplace materials and objects. I respond to ready-made objects that are often discards or flawed in some obvious way,” she said. “Alterations in these familiar things elevate them and draw parallels to our own human predicament.”

Altman received both her bachelor of fine arts and master of arts degrees from the University of Alabama, as well as her master of fine arts from the University of North Texas. Her work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Art Museum of South East Texas, The Grace Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.

Support for “Sticks and Stones” is provided by Collectors’ Circle Platinum Sponsor The Byars Foundation.

Special events in connection with the exhibition include: Free First Friday tours at 11am April 6th, May 4th and June 1st; and Family Days from 2-4pm Saturday, April 14th and May 12th.

 

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