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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Betty Briggs

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Inside the Artist’s Studio: And so become yourself.

Lifelong Learning: Betty Briggs

By Derrick White

“I guess you could say retirement actually lead me on the path to being an artist. I have always loved art but life kept getting in the way, family, practical priorities, but now at age 70, I can pursue my interests. TJC is once again there for me, as it has been for the past 36 years. I think the Audit Program is a wonderful opportunity for seniors to continue to learn and enjoy the many diverse classes our community college has to offer,” encourages artist Betty Briggs. This article celebrates the non-traditional student actively involved in studio art classes and enriching the creative learning environment. Lifelong learning is seeking continuous experiences building knowledge and skills during one’s life. This is an excellent use of the fine arts for staying healthy and well mentally, emotionally, and physically. It is great for a creative studio environment to have students ranging in age. At TJC, these students discuss and exchange ideas, work socially, and volunteer collectively, and it is always interesting to see different approaches to ideas and materials. “While waiting to enroll, I enjoy visiting with seniors, and we share our interests. Besides art classes, seniors sign up to exercise at the Ornelas HPE center, while others enjoy auditing government, english, voice, history, etc.,” explains Briggs.

Betty Briggs enjoys abstract and landscape painting in acrylic and watercolor. She also works in clay and enjoys creating with her hands. She is a valuable asset to have in the studio and around campus. She is helpful and encouraging to other students. Briggs first started college in 1965 at Oklahoma State University. “I just wanted to be a housewife and mother. I was always interested in art but never got any encouragement, so I eventually dropped out and became a secretary,” recalls Betty. Eventually, Betty and her young family were brought to Tyler. A family friend suggested Betty check out TJC because it was sociable and rewarding. So when her youngest started kindergarten, she enrolled.

“Tuition for six credit hours in 1982 was $25. It was so rewarding, and I signed up for six more hours in the spring. My teachers were so encouraging, and I enjoyed learning so much I decided to go for my associate’s degree in general studies. By the time I graduated, my teachers were emboldening me to continue my education at UT Tyler. Since I didn’t have a major, I decided to major in journalism,” states Betty. Adding, “I was never urged to pursue art. So, as I worked towards my degree, I promised myself I would come back and take all the art classes I had been longing to take.”

“I occasionally returned to TJC to take classes interesting to me, from tennis to real estate and, of course, art,” informs Briggs. While adjusting to a new and independent life and taking a free TJC career workshop, the director of career planning encouraged her to go back to college and get a master’s degree. Betty earned her master’s in just over a year while working part-time at the local newspaper and adjunct teaching journalism at TJC. All of this happened because her journalism professor had come to an art exhibition and was interested in buying her ceramic piece. “I was so excited, and when I updated her, she got me a job at the paper and hired me to teach mass communication. After I received my master’s, Linda Ziegler told me there was an opening as alumni director and encouraged me to apply,” states Betty. Years later she retired and among the things on her bucket list was to come back and again take more art classes. “That is exactly what I am doing,” claims the artist. By the way, Betty had given the ceramic piece to Ziegler as a gift of gratitude and years later, after Linda passed away, her daughter contacted Betty and sent the piece back to her. “That is an example of how art changed my life, that and my very special journalism teacher. And my ceramics teacher, Nancy McCain, who taught me how to throw on the ceramics wheel,” explains Betty.

Betty finds inspiration in travel and enjoys visiting museums. She has been to the Louvre, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Getty, the Legion of Honor Museum, and the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. On a trip to Italy, she had the opportunity to saunter the streets, explore the churches, statues, ancient buildings, and magnificent fountains. Betty is a member of the Tyler Museum of Art and enjoys going to the exhibits and attending events showcasing artists.


“These classes have me painting and working in clay again. I always say I’m going to paint at home, but I never do unless it is for class. My brother-in-law, Rodger Helt, is a very talented artist who has made his living as an artist and my daughter Kristin Clement is an elementary art teacher in the Dallas Area,” states Betty. Besides starting her career at 50 as TJC’s first Alumni Director, Briggs has volunteered for everything from Blue Bird leader to fifth grade Art Mom. She has been in charge of the TJC Charitable Giving Campaign. For many years she also organized TJC employee volunteers for the United Way Day of Caring and Ringing the Bell for the Salvation Army. Betty has served on numerous boards including United Way, Sister Cities, ARK, Tyler Executive Women’s Network (TEWN), Champions for Children, and Women of Tyler.

“I enjoy being on campus again. Seeing old friends and making new friends with the students in my classes. It is always such a diverse group. Some of my classmates are very talented art majors, and some students have managed to squeeze in a fun class among their required core classes. This fall, when I once again signed up for my art classes, the TJC lady assisting me said, “I bought one of your paintings, and it’s hanging in my office,” I felt like I had just won the grand prize,” she exclaims.

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Tyler Museum of Art: “Texas Birds” and “Floating Life: Mississippi River”

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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. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001, tylermuseum.org, or email info@tylermuseum.org.

The Tyler Museum of Art ushers in the summer season with a visual celebration of the avian species that fly the skies over the Lone Star State in the new exhibition “Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert 2.” The show continues through August 4th in the TMA’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.

Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Texas Birds” spotlights works from Tolbert’s ongoing Texas Bird Project – including a recently finished piece that never has been seen by the public. Started in 2014, this body of work includes drawings, paintings, and prints that highlight a wide variety of the bird species that inhabit the state. The series largely was inspired by early childhood experiences with the Lone Star State’s vast array of flora and fauna on trips the artist took with his father, Frank X. Tolbert Sr., as the elder Tolbert was writing his column “Tolbert’s Texas” for the “Dallas Morning News.” Work on the Texas Bird Project began when the artist was commissioned by Austin’s Flatbed Press & Gallery to create eight bird etchings. After the initial exhibition at Flatbed, Tolbert said he decided to continue the project indefinitely.

“Texas Birds” marks the first time works from the Texas Bird Project have been organized into a major museum exhibition. Tolbert’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He and his wife, artist Ann Stautberg, live and work in Houston.

Support for “Texas Birds” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors June and Steve Hillis, and Myrtis D. Smith.

TMA Plots New Course with “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward,” Through August 25th

The Tyler Museum of Art explores the mystique of the South as seen through the eyes of a Texas talent with its next major exhibition, “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward.” The show continues through August 25th in the TMA’s North Gallery.

Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Floating Life” is the first large-scale museum exhibition of Mississippi River works by Ward, a San Antonio artist and professor of art and art history at Trinity University, whose work largely is informed by natural history and the environmental crisis.

The exhibition spotlights pieces from two recent bodies of work: “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” and “Veritas Caput.” The works from “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” are based on geological maps of the river’s ancient courses and inspired by the artist’s childhood memories from South Louisiana, where her great-grandfather spent a career as a riverboat captain. 

Pieces from “Veritas Caput” focus on the search for the source of the river by various explorers.

Ward’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Tyler Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Support for “Floating Life” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors Betty and Dick Summers.

Summer Lecture Series Programs

TMA’s 2019 Summer Lecture Series will be held in the Museum’s Education Gallery. A small reception will follow each lecture. Admission is free, but seating is limited. To RSVP, call (903)595-1001.

  • “Divide and Conquer: An Overview of the Mississippi River’s Role in the Civil War” by Dr. James Newsom, Senior Lecturer in Political Science and History, The University of Texas at Tyler will be held at 2:30pm, Sunday, June 23rd
  • “I Knew Mark Twain” by Dr. Jim Richey, Professor and Department Chair of English, Tyler Junior College at 2:30pm on Sunday, July 21st

Special Events

Special events in connection with current exhibitions include a free First Friday tour June 7th, July 5th and August 2nd.

The first Friday of each month, 11am-12:30pm, the TMA offers a full day of free admission plus guided tours of its spotlight exhibitions.

Family Days will be from 2-4pm Saturday, June 8th, July 13th and August 10th.

Free admission, interactive art projects, light snacks, and a festive atmosphere for all ages are on the menu for the second Saturday of each month with the Tyler Museum of Art’s Family Day.

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Bright Stars, Birds, & Beasts: Art on View This Summer

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By Derrick White

Well, the heat has arrived. I’m sure you and yours need free, fun activities which will be stimulating to the senses and inside air-conditioned buildings, so check out these venues around town showcasing wonderful visual art.

Gallery Main Street, located in Downtown Tyler at 110 W. Erwin St., kicked off the summer by displaying the Caldwell Arts Academy Exhibit. The exhibition (which closed May 21st) featured 46 artworks by 42 different artists from Caldwell Arts Academy ranging from first through sixth grade. This was a great opportunity for these young artists to have their creations exhibited at a professional level in a real contemporary art space. The pieces were strong and showcased these youthful bright Caldwell Stars.

Gallery Main Street has been celebrating serving our community for the last 10 years with the “110@110” Art Exhibition and Fundraising Art Sale. 110 (10” x 10”) art pieces created by a select group of local artists will be available for affordable purchase at the grand opening on June 8th at 6pm. This runs through July 7th.

While you are Downtown, stop by ArtFix Cultured Studios around the corner at 112 S. Broadway Ave., where among the full walls of a variety of works by 13 gallery artists (including local talents Nyle Reams, Darby Blaise, and Cassie Bartley) you will find weekly workshops, classes, and events, now including a new recording studio booth in an old bank vault.

The Tyler Museum of Art exhibits “Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert II” through August 4th containing artwork by the well-known Texas contemporary artist created for his ongoing Texas Bird Project. The exhibition contains drawings, paintings, and prints highlighting a variety of Texas bird species. The artist shows a range of his works and thought processes, from small-scale to large-scale, with colorful blasts, textured surfaces, exaggerated forms, complex compositions, and expressive lines.

Also on view is “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward” through August 25th. This solo show by the artist and art professor at Trinity University in San Antonio spotlights pieces from two bodies of work – “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” and “Veritas Caput” based on geological maps, river courses and sources, and childhood memories. 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.

On view in the Meadows Gallery at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Cowan Center,located at 3900 University Blvd, Tyler, is the 2019 “Juried Student Exhibition.” The show is on display through August 9th and is free and open to the public Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

This year’s juror is Kate Borcherding (Sam Houston State University art professor and mixed media artist focusing on psychological narratives with the human figure). Her selections are impressive and engaging. The professional skill level, appeal, and powerful content coming from these emerging Texas contemporary artists is remarkable and speaks volumes about our East Texas art scene. We have powerful artistic voices here.

Some of the excellent eye catchers included in the exhibition are Laminda Miller’s “New Life” (aluminum and epoxy clay), a small and powerful sculpture of a dead mouse hanging on the wall. The piece speaks to the fragility of life and the meekness of the small, and its form casts some incredible shadows.

Jessica Sanders’ “Fold, Cover, Fold” (porcelain, stoneware and wire) is a colorful, quilted tapestry of tiny, individual, geometric ceramic tiles sewn together with copper wire. The result is an intricate colorful blend of patterns where rigid, hard forms become billowy with fabric-like pleats.

Stephanie Nickel has an interesting triptych of old, rustic typewriters (ink and acrylic on paper) entitled “Shift from the ‘Story’ Series.” The images are faded and fleeting, and speak to the seasons of life and passage of time.

Brittany Taylor has a showstopper with her small painting “Stroller” (acrylic on panel). This one draws the viewer in close to examine the exquisite detail. It provides one with the sense of happening upon a hole in the wall of time and space and getting to peek through to another world, similar in appearance but eerily unlike our own.

The exhibit also features strong porcelain works from Willow Lanchester; well-crafted and intimate relief and monoprint works from Maggie Pierce and Kelly Waller; a mixed media video installation (and perhaps the funniest title in the show) from Nora Schreiber, “Am I Turning Myself Into a House Plant;” quality, large-scale paintings by Lilah Shepherd, John Miranda, and Erick Rodriguez; a beautiful charcoal drawing by Lorianne Hubbard; and a bright and colorful organic form watercolor, monoprint, and collage piece by Katherine Finch. I enjoyed Jack Delaney’s (oil on canvas) painting “Paradise Suite, wherein a couple greet each other with a kiss inside an implied linear perspective interior, oblivious to both the fiery sky outside and the wildcats and other critters clustered around the home. The piece is technically proficient while maintaining a head-scratching woolly juxtaposition leaving one guessing. Leon Campbell has a solid piece in “Tetris Line Pattern, a linocut on marbled paper creating a disorienting optic effect of layers with geometric line work atop fluid, unforced, subtle colors.

Two of the works visually hitting me the hardest, with a “creepy in a good way” sense of wonder, are “A Bone to Pick” by Joshua Crockett and “Unwanted/Prized” by Katie Dawn Dukes. Crockett’s work is a meticulously sculpted tooth made from 2,399 toothpicks. The tooth is textured, weathered, and brown like it’s been pulled from an old, craggy smoker. Crockett committed to forming this piece the hard way, and all the nuances of surface really paid off.

And then there’s Katie Dukes’ equestrian-esque fetus beast distorted by the clear liquid inside its specimen jar (oven clay, aluminum, glass, and water). This work is beautifully crafted and hauntingly indistinct. It stands in both worlds, of being either some believable fantasy or a freakish reality. Regardless, it is a job well done.

The exhibition also showcases quality pieces from Lidia Alvidrez, Rachel Lynn Anthony, Megan Brewer, Brady Collings, Coy Lothrop, Mike Ohara, Mary Ann Post, Jamin Shepherd, and Jacque Yost.

I wish I had room to discuss them all, but I don’t so you will have to go see the art yourselves. Summer is a great to do and as usual, art is a part of East Texas.  So be sure to see as much as you can while you are out seeking any cool air conditioning.

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Art of Peace: Call for Entries

Entries now are being accepted for the Living Peace Visual Art Exhibit as part of the Art of Peace – Tyler celebration, a citywide commemoration of the United Nations International Day of Peace, September 21st.

“Art of Peace – Tyler is happy once again to partner with the Tyler Museum of Art to invite regional artists to offer their creative responses to the idea of peace and to our 2019 theme, ‘Living Peace,’” said Anne McCrady, co-founder and co-director of the peace event.

The visual art show will be presented as a juried exhibit from September 15th-22nd in the Education Classroom at the Tyler Museum of Art, 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. The exhibit will be open to the public and admission is free.

The jury for selection will consist of members of the Art of Peace – Tyler committee and TMA representatives. The jury has the option to select up to two works per artist for inclusion in the show. Past exhibits have included the work of artists from Austin, Dallas, Lubbock, and the East Texas area.

“We are privileged that the Art of Peace – Tyler committee once again has asked us to be the host venue for this exhibition,” TMA Executive Director Chris Leahy said. “The work we have seen over the past four years of our partnership has grown increasingly more dynamic and accomplished, and we are proud to have the opportunity to participate in such a great community event.”

Entry deadline for the visual art show is July 31st. Works in all media are eligible, provided they can be juried by digital image. These include painting, drawing, printmaking, photography/digital media, sculpture, mixed media and fine craft (wood, metal, clay, fiber, glass). Artists should e-mail digital images, descriptions of work, CV and artist information to artofpeaceart@gmail.com or mail a CD with information packet to: Art of Peace – Tyler Exhibit Committee, Tyler Museum of Art, 1300 S. Mahon Ave, Tyler, TX 75701.

“Since jury selection uses images of the artwork, artists should send high-quality images that represent their pieces as accurately and professionally as possible,” Ms. McCrady said. Artists must submit images as JPEG files. Art of Peace – Tyler reserves the right to reproduce artwork images of accepted entries for promotion of the exhibition in the media.

The TMA does not allow art sales on the premises. However, given artist permission, guests will be provided with names of artists and selected contact information, McCrady said. Visitors who wish to purchase artwork may contact the artist directly regarding a sale after the close of the show.

Sunday, September 22nd, there will be an Artist Reception at 3pm with a program starting at 3:30pm.

For more information about Art of Peace – Tyler events, visit tylerpeace.com. For questions about the art exhibition, e-mail artofpeaceart@gmail.com or call Ms. McCrady at (903)658-5645.

The Art of Peace – Tyler will be held September 15th-22nd.

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