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Tyler Museum of Art: “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,, or email

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.

Special Events

Special events in connection with current exhibitions include a free First Friday tour 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, 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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For the Love of Art: Art Events, Classes & Exhibits

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Discover your inner artist by taking a fun class ! These are for all ages and all experience levels!

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Luminary – James Robert Pace on Exhibit

Legendary East Texas visual artist James Robert Pace is the heart of influence in the artistic spirit of the Tyler area and has been for over three decades. An exhibition honoring James Pace’s extensive, influential, and brilliant art and his lasting legacy opens Monday, August 26th and will remain on view through Friday, October 4th, 2019 at the Meadows Gallery at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Cowan Center located at 3900 University Blvd, Tyler, TX 75701. A reception with the artist will be held Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. An exhibition catalogue will be available. 

James Pace is a recently retired Distinguished Professor of Visual Art at The University of Texas at Tyler, where he has taught since 1985. He holds a Master of Fine Art degree from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Oklahoma. Pace was appointed to the Oge’ Professorship in Visual Art, the White Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, and received the Chancellor’s Council Teaching Award while teaching at the University of Texas at Tyler. He has exhibited his work nationally and internationally since 1976 and has received numerous awards for his paintings, drawings, prints, and mixed media work. He maintains an active studio practice in the forest of East Texas, where he lives with his artist wife, Philana Oliphant, poet daughter Aza Rene’ Pace, and an ever-changing number of rescued dogs. 

“Like most people who practice art-making, I’ve done so for as long as I can remember. I’m sure most people find some kind of early support through family and friends, and thereby experience some type of self-actualization. I did, still, do,” states Pace, adding, “Trained in printmaking, painting, and drawing, I always thought those were my media interests. But, one day, while working on a large canvas on the floor of my studio, I inadvertently dropped a piece of paper on a painting. The experience brought a flood of memory of long-forgotten understanding. I knew mixed media was my way of finding a full voice of aesthetic consideration.”

Dedicated to the visual art spirit of East Texas and to seeing it prosper and grow, as well as garnering the statewide and national attention it deserves, Pace hopes his newly enlarged and renovated studio space becomes a place for our community of artists and thinkers to congregate. He hopes to facilitate a more cohesive, yet diverse arts community. “This is about helping, in whatever ways we can, the next generation of East Texas artists,” states James Pace.

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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.

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