Monday, February 20, 2006

Barbara Chavous, a Columbus Artist, honored by Arnett Howard

(I share Arnett's warmhearted tribute to this most anmazing artist, friend and neighbor. Her talent, way beyond her imaginative way of sculpting totems and spirit houses, was in the way she inspired so many others, children especially, to open up to the immense possibilities of imagination.) Charlie

What a blazing weekend; Cols. was on fire. Friday, Tim Commisky Trio at Worthington Inn, Saturday, the Cols. Children's Choir World Music Festival, Arti Gras at First Community Church in Marblecliff with real New Orleans Cuisine, The Cols. Jazz Orchestra saluting Diz and Bird with Jeff Clayton, Claudio Roditi and Deena DeRose, a jam session with Bryan Olsheski at the Cols. Music Hall, Sunday at Shiloh Baptist Church and a sellout at Cols. Music Hall that featured piano phenom Aaron Diehl. I'm overdosed!

For thirty years my artistic mother has been Barbara Chavous, painter and sculptor. I met Barbara in 1975 when I was living in East Columbus and she was looking for a space to work. She and her former husband, painter and engineer Stanley Sourelis, moved two doors away, above the then Pace Gallery at Taylor and East Broad Street.

Barbara was raised in Columbus, graduated from East High, Central State University and was married to movie photographer Adger Cowens in New York. She met Sourelis in New York and they resettled in Columbus. She says that he taught her the sense of color that now characterizes her work.

During those exciting days, Stanley and Barbara were the artistic mentors to many of us; Queen Brooks, Terry Logan, Pheoris West, Candy Watkins, Stephen Canneto, Walt Neal, Sandy Aska and countless others. They moved to 776 East Franklin Avenue, the former Henry Hallwood Mansion, and were one of the pioneering household in a diverse community now know as Olde Towne East.

One day in 1979, I was wrestling with the choice of accumulating thirty years and a pension in a lawn fertilizer factory or walking off into unknown to be a musician entrepreneur, I went to her for advise (or more like a shove off the gangplank). Her words I will carry with me forever, "If a bird stays too long in the nest they get too fat to fly." I jumped into history.

She can't remember those words of advise to me. If fact, my artistic mom can't remember very much because she has dementia; that loss of intellectual capacity has become so severe that it interferes with her social functioning. She has been patient for over ten years, but fortunately, she has been able to continue to create her amazing art pieces.

In 2003, I was honored to be nominated for the Arts Freedom Award, presented by Southside Settlement House and the Columbus Museum. The two other honorees that year were Steven Anderson, director of Phoenix Theater for Children and Barbara Chavous, my mom.

What a joyful evening; like the proverbial "Old Home Night." All of the Columbus arts family that we partied, exhibited and loved with during those frenzied days of the seventies and eighties came together to celebrate the recognition of our life's work.

To paraphrase a composition from my pastor Mary Kay Beale Carter, "With grateful heart I thank you, Lord, " for bringing Barbara Chavous into my life.

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