Courtesy: Edward Brown
ART BY THE SQUARE
Facing the county courthouse is an arts-minded nonprofit, Ellis County Art Association. One of its directors, Tina Bohlman, greeted me. She was making final preparations for a fundraiser that evening. Each year around May, the art association hosts dozens of artists who swarm Waxahachie to set up aisles, smatter painting boards and capture historic buildings and homes in an open-air (“plein air”) technique. The finished works, many of them still drying, adorned the gallery space’s walls. Sales from the big event will support student art projects, Bohlman told me.
Julie & Bruce Lee; Courtesy: Edward Brown
Nearby Webb Gallery has forged a market in American folk art since its founding in 1987. I met Webb Gallery co-founders/co-curators, Julie and Bruce Lee. The husband and wife team were preparing for a show the following Sunday when I stopped by. Bruce’s love of contemporary art was evident. He started by showing a book of works by folk art collector Burt Hemphill.
“When we started in the late ’80s, there weren’t many galleries in Texas doing this,” he said. “We had a lot of territory to cover. Many of the artists we collected were self-taught and older.”
The Lees continue to focus on selling southern American folk art along with a few national artists like Los Angeles-based artist Esther Pearl Watson. Boldly colored paintings by painter Ike Morgan covered two walls in the gallery. The outsider artist developed his craft while being treated for schizophrenia at a state hospital in Austin. Julie and Bruce continue to explore American culture through the works of a new generation of painters, weavers, sculptors and artisans. The two are advocates of preserving folk art throughout the United States and beyond.
The Beginning Place; Courtesy: Edward Brown
THE BEGINNING PLACE SCULPTURE
A few blocks south of downtown is a low-profile sculpture by famed granite sculptor Jesús Moroles. The work, which rests on the grounds of a nearby church, is spiritual and contemplative. Four solitary granite seats face each other over the top of a ground-level cross. Moroles, who passed away four years ago, created more than 2,000 abstract granite works that have since found homes in public and private collections across the world.
Courtesy: Edward Brown
If you want to relive the magic of collecting Easter eggs (or any other of youth’s surprise-based revelries), I recommend an afternoon of hunting “Hachie Hearts”. The large, heart-shaped sculptures (which all beautifully portray aspects of Waxahachie culture and life) are scattered throughout the city’s downtown. All of the artworks are easily accessible. By the time I found each of the eight sculptures, I had covered a good amount of Waxahachie’s charming downtown, which is characterized by leisurely pedestrians and cars, unique dining spots and friendly faces at every turn.
After being culturally satiated, I ended my afternoon with lunch at Bistro 115. The new American/Italian restaurant gave an upscale dining experience for a very reasonable price. My beef medallions came bathed in a wine reduction that complimented the tender cuts of meat. A rich risotto side and the appetizer (which I ordered because the description included duck fat and bacon jam) left me full but not keeling over.
Waxahachie is on the right track. The historic buildings, ample oak trees and open feel of its downtown invite visitors to slow down and take in everything this charming DFW gem has to offer. The galleries and growing number of public artworks are worth the trip alone.