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Derek Frazier: Inside the Artist’s Studio

Inside the Artist’s Studio:

Pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

Derek Frazier

By Derrick White

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” – Kurt Vonnegut. 

There are a lot of things to be happy about here in East Texas, especially in the visual arts. I want to introduce you to Derek Frazier to again highlight a member of the gem of a museum, the Tyler Museum of Art. If it isn’t nice, I don’t know what is. Derek is the museum’s behind-the-scenes preparator (an art handler working with lighting, art objects, and all aspects of installations and de-installations). Frazier earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology and ecology from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in art and a Masters of Arts degree in English literature from the University of Texas at Tyler. He also has graduate hours taking sculpture, art, ichthyology (fish science), limnology (lake science), and civil engineering. Derek Frazier is truly a contemporary Renaissance man of numerous talents, with a wealth of knowledge and a loyalty to accuracy. 

He states, “I’ve always reveled in our species’ creativity, whether it’s in science, the humanities, or just an old man sitting on a backwoods porch whittling. I’ve been to 40 American states, 6 Canadian provinces, and Europe twice; everywhere I go, I seek out the places not listed in books and the people who live there. Everyone has a story and a perspective on the world, and museums are just about the only place most of us can experience times and places far removed from our own.” He continues, “Good art, both visual and literary, brings me a wider understanding of cultures unfamiliar to me, helps to define the culture in which I live, and strengthens my compassion for people who may be marginalized or deemed inconsequential by our society at large.” 

As an art student Derek was interested primarily in sculpture and mixed media, drawn to their physicality. “My favorite techniques for making things involve cutting, chopping, burning, and staining paper with coffee and wine. When I started my Master’s degree I began writing. I’ve written a few novels and have had short stories, flash fiction, and poetry published in literary journals half a dozen times or so. Right now I focus my creativity on presenting visually striking and informative exhibitions. I want people to be drawn into the galleries with intriguing lighting and precisely installed work,” Frazier says. And draw people into the galleries he does, successfully. The installations and the lighting of the exhibitions at the Tyler Museum of Art are outstanding, meticulous, and equivalent to world class museums. 

Derek explains, “Before installation begins, I spend an hour or so in the empty gallery, brainstorming about the best way to make the art shine. One of the most important elements in a good exhibition is the lighting. I always go through the same steps: first I come up with a general idea, and then we start placing fixtures to see if it’s going to work. In the corner of the gallery I always have what I call my thinking chair, and at this point I spend a lot of time sitting there and working out problems or coming up with new ways to illuminate (both literally and figuratively) the work. Then we go around at least three times more and tweak the lights. The final step is to fine tune everything. The process takes three to five days, and I often start over more than once.” 

Derek adds, “I’ve hung more than 1100 frames for the museum, so I really enjoy installing work involving something beyond measuring and setting them on hooks. The Candyce Garret exhibition featured large stone sculptures in the gallery and around the Tyler Junior College campus which was fun, and so was lighting the Legos and Dale Chihuly (glass) exhibitions. Our installation crew and I (our registrar, Leah Scott, and our interns) do the 100 things in the gallery no one will notice. An example is from the recent Leticia Huckaby show: we hung an exceptionally large piece on the wall and it was perfectly, precisely centered. That was exciting and satisfying, even though no one besides us ever noticed.” It is this invisible craft that makes a positive impact on the audience’s experience of viewing artwork. 

Derek states, “I think social media and the Internet blur the lines between local, regional, national, and world cultures, which I am sorry to see. There are some Texas artists who still draw inspiration from the world immediately around them, but large galleries and even larger museums are affecting more and more of our artists. I respect Texas artists like James Surls (modernist, organic sculptor), William Montgomery (central Texas painter and printmaker), and Chance Dunlap (TJC art professor and sculptor) who seem to be less inspired by New York galleries than most. As far as new media and trends go, I expect to see more recognition of graffiti and photography. A selfie with a filter doesn’t qualify as fine art, but a hundred selfies combined into one work might.” Some of the artists Derek Frazier finds inspiring are Louise Bourgeois (large-scale sculptures and installations), Richard Long (sculptor and land artist), Pip ‘n’ Pop (psychedelic candy mountains), Titian (Renaissance artist of the Venetian school), Nancy Graves (sculptor, painter, printmaker, and filmmaker), Donald Judd (minimalist sculptor), and Paula McDermott (TJC art professor and organic sculptor).  

In discussing the growing art scene of East Texas Derek responds, “Tyler is slowly beginning to support the arts, which is a good thing for everyone in our community. I am especially impressed with a local group of artists called East Texas Creatives, who seem to be driving this trend. I wouldn’t call it a renaissance of art yet, but these artists and those who support them definitely are carrying the arts forward in a positive and meaningful way. Right now there are a few individuals and businesses doing the lion’s share of supporting local art, which is to be expected at this point in the process of assimilating art into the community. We are at a potential turning point: support can grow or it can fade, and only the community and groundbreakers can determine the future of visual art in Tyler.” So it goes.


Gallery Main Street hosts First Digital Exhibit

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Gallery Main Street will host their first digital exhibit from May 1 to July 7. While facilities continue to be closed or with limited hours due to COVID-19, pictures and virtual tours of this exhibit will be available at Art will also be available for purchase online.

The spring exhibit is an open theme to allow local artists an opportunity to spotlight their different mediums, methods, visions and experiences.

“Art never stops,” said Main Street Director Amber Varona. “Now more than ever it is important to create innovative opportunities for artists to display and sell their art.”

This will be the first juried exhibit in the new gallery space inside the Plaza Tower. The space provides the artwork to be visible beyond the hours of the Main Street office and by patrons visiting the new first floor retail bays. The gallery serves as a valued centerpiece to the beautifully furnished atrium that serves as an inviting gathering spot.

For more information, visit or call (903) 593-6905.

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Online UT Tyler MFA and BFA Art Exhibits Now Available

The University of Texas at Tyler has announced online art exhibitions featuring the work of students who graduated this spring with Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees.

Traditionally held on campus, the exhibitions were modified for online viewing as a safeguard in response to the coronavirus. The work of four MFA and eight BFA graduates can be viewed at

“While we are heavy-hearted about the inability to celebrate our student achievements face to face, we recognize the importance of taking precautionary measures during this time,’’ said Merry Wright, professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “We are pleased to announce our online exhibitions, and we are incredibly proud of the students featured. They have remained steadfast in their commitment to creating and have approached the unfolding events with the highest caliber of professionalism.’’

MFA Exhibitions

Artists featured in the MFA exhibitions include:

Jessica Sanders of Tyler makes delicate-looking ceramic sculpture. Her exhibition is titled “Attach | Manipulate | Respond.” “This body of work deals with form, space, and visual accessibility,’’ Sanders said. “The pieces are made up of small, individual ceramic pieces that are attached together with wire, making flexible ceramic sheets.”

John Miranda’s exhibition, “Pan Dulce in the Sauce,“ features sculpture and paintings inspired by his hometown of Del Rio. “My work is a visceral response to a lived reality, an abstraction of space and memory,’’ he said.” Inanimate entities become communities within space as I try to find a balance between cultural history and personal experiences.”

Laminda Miller of Gladewater makes animal sculptures of epoxy clay and mixed media. Her exhibition, “Intentions,’’ features deceptively whimsical works that are allegorical representations of the social, psychological and literal constructs of identity.

Nora Schreiber of Tyler explores a curiosity of the world around her in her exhibition titled “ALL IT CAN BE IS WHAT IT WAS NAMED.” She asks her audience to step into a visual exploration of the mundane in their daily lives, with a theatrical twist.

BFA Exhibition

Artists highlighted in the BFA exhibition, titled “Nascent,’’ include

Lidia Alvidrez of Dallas – Avridrez’s work as a ceramic artist is influenced by her life experiences and dealing with a mental disorder.

Katherine Emmel of Overton – Emmel’s work is focused primarily in painting and reflects


several dystopian and emotional narratives found within everyday society.

Willow Lanchester of Tyler – Lanchester works primarily in clay and metal sculpture. Her art pieces are focused permutations of form that explore themes of concealed information.

Maggie Pierce of Tyler – Pierce uses photo-based printmaking techniques to create highly altered versions of desert landscape. Her work examines the landscape and our relationship to it as something that is mediated by various technologies.

Payton Poole of Tyler – Poole works with multimedia, three-dimensional sculptures, both interactive and wearable, that open conversations about mental illness and the stigma against it.

Grace Richardson of Troup – Richardson uses screen-printing methods to create non- objective forms that render familiarity through their interactions and emphasis on color. A vocabulary of shape and color is established through these arrangements, creating a relationship and language between form and viewer.

Justin Witherspoon of Kilgore – Witherspoon is a printmaker who works in both relief and mono-type. His current body of work is focused on contrasting hard lines and stark objects with nebulous color, inviting exploration.

Teresa Young of Marshall – Young is a sculptor whose works incorporate disposed items such as shipping material and objects from nature. The items signify abandonment and reincarnation.

For more information about the exhibitions, contact Michelle Taff, UT Tyler gallery and media coordinator, at 903-566-7237 or

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Historic Tyler Celebrates with 26th Annual Photo Contest


May is a time when thousands of individuals around the country join in a nationwide celebration of National Preservation Month, sponsored annually by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This May, Preservation Month is going virtual.  Even though many historical places are physically closed right now, we hope to excite current preservation supporters and introduce new audiences to the preservation work that makes our community special by opening a window to a world of adventure online.

The National Trust created Preservation Week in 1973 to spotlight grassroots preservation efforts in America.  Since then, it has grown into an annual celebration observed by small towns and big cities across the United States. Due to its popularity, the National Trust extended the event to the entire month of May, which was then declared Preservation Month to provide more opportunities to celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of our country’s cities and states. The hope is to introduce more Americans to the growing preservation movement.

Here at Historic Tyler, we will celebrate Preservation Month by virtually highlighting preservation efforts made here in our own beautiful Rose City, and by hosting our annual Photo Contest.  Historic Tyler’s Photo Contest has been a Preservation Month staple for over twenty-five years, and this year’s theme is Beyond Your Basic Brick. We have picked historic properties throughout the Azalea and Charnwood historic districts that feature interesting bricks, brick patterns or brick details.

To enter the photo contest, identify each photograph by its address or name and submit answers to Historic Tyler, Inc., P.O. Box 6774, Tyler, TX, 75711, send an email to or private message us on social media.  Entries must be submitted no later than end-of-day, Monday, June 21, 2020.  The entry with the highest number of correct answers will be awarded a family membership in Historic Tyler, Inc. and $50 cash.  In the event of ties, a drawing will be held to determine the winner.

To enter the photo contest, identify each photograph by its current name or address and submit answers to: Historic Tyler, Inc., P.O. Box 6774, Tyler, TX, 75711, Send an email to, or Private message us on social media.

Entries must be submitted no later than end of day, Monday, June 21, 2020. The entry with the highest number of  correct answers will be awarded a family membership in Historic Tyler, Inc. and $50 cash. In the event of ties, a drawing will be held to determine the winner.

Historic Tyler, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 1977 with a mission “to promote the preservation and protection of historic structures and sites through advocacy, education, involvement, and private and public investment.”  It is a membership-based organization with many preservation accomplishments to its credit.  Executive Director Mrs. Washmon invites you to visit their website: for more information on the organization, which is located in the Charnwood District at 110 E. Charnwood Street.

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