Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival

This is the poster child of festivals.

 

This thought came to my mind after being at the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival for a mere ten minutes on a picture-perfect September afternoon. This festival had it all: live music, a variety of food, arts and crafts vendors, community organization booths, a car show, and kids activities, all nestled in the shade provided by the sprawling limbs of the trees in beautiful Center Creek Park. Plus, the event organization was seamless, with volunteers directing traffic, driving shuttles, and providing information to attendees.

 

True, the organizers of the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival have had a little time to refine the details of this event – like over 20 years – and the festival, which is held the fourth weekend of September every year, now brings more than 15,000 people to the southwest Missouri town of Carl Junction.

 

bluegrass festival overview

Historically, this has been a Saturday-only event, but in 2018, two more days of activities were added to the festival. On Friday night, the Indoor Bluegrass Jamboree was held at Carl Junction’s Stark Auditorium, featuring three bluegrass bands. On Sunday, Pick’n & Picnic’n in the Park (I dare you to say that three times fast!) invited families to eat a picnic lunch in Center Creek Park while listening to the music of the Picker’s Post Band.

 

I visited the festival on Saturday, when it was held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Center Creek Park. I arrived in the early afternoon, and it was pretty crowded. But Center Creek Park is large, allowing ample room for both people and cars, and I didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space. Shuttles were available for those who parked in the free parking areas; there was also a $5 VIP parking option for those who wanted to park near the entrance. But even though I parked in the free parking area, I still didn’t have to walk far before I was immersed in the sights and sounds of the festival.

 

 

Music

Each year, the festival organizers invite visitors to bring their own lawn chairs to relax in while they listen to the stars of the festival: the bluegrass musicians. To me, bluegrass brings to mind banjos, fiddles, and mandolins, but have you ever really wondered where this music came from? Well, I did. So I did some research.

 

According to the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation, bluegrass has its roots in the songs about country life that were sung by those who migrated to America from Ireland, Scotland, and England and settled in rural areas in the Appalachian region. In the early part of the 20th century, the classic bluegrass style as we now know it was formed, blending country, jazz, Celtic, rock, and gospel music styles.

 

And now you know.

 

Well maybe you knew all of this before, but at least now I know.

 

Back to the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival. The music began flowing from the stage at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, and there was a sea of people kicking back in their lawn chairs enjoying the lively music of bands like No Apparent Reason, Berry Wynn & The Fly by Night Band, and That Dalton Gang, who was playing when I took this photo.

 

bluegrass festival band

 

 

Food

What makes listening to live music even better? Why, food, of course! The Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival had a wide array of dining options to choose from including: Ghetto Tacos, Clark’s Cuisine (barbecue), King’s Kettle Korn, and more.

 

 

bluegrass festival fred and reds

Fred & Red’s (spaghetti red and Frito pie)

 

bluegrass festival kona ice

Kona Ice

 

 

Vendors

When I reached the last food truck, I discovered an additional area filled with arts and crafts tents and community organization information.

 

bluegrass festival vendors

Then I realized it led to another vendor area, and then another. This festival was bigger than I’d expected!

 

Here are some of the vendors that were at the festival:

 

bluegrass festival everything crocheted

Everything Crochet by Lori

 

bluegrass festival plaid anvil

The Plaid Anvil (embellished/bleached plaids and leather goods)

 

bluegrass festival kimberlys jellies

Kimberly’s Jellies & Jams (a variety of jelly and jam flavors, including Mountain Dew and Coke, and avocado jalapeno, which I bought)

 

bluegrass festival bjs creations

BJS Creations (jewelry, baby bibs)

 

 

bluegrass festival kimbriel goods

Kimbriel Custom Crafts (handmade pens, razors, and holiday ornaments)

 

bluegrass festival surplus usa2

Surplus USA (metal art)

 

 

 

Car and Bike Show

I continued to walk through park, the energetic notes of bluegrass carrying me along the way. I came to the Car and Bike Show area, where rows of vehicles from different eras gave glimpses into times gone by.

 

bluegrass festival car show

Judging for the show started at noon, and trophies were given out at 2 p.m. This beauty was one of my favorites.

 

bluegrass festival red car

 

Kids’ Activities

Even the little ones had an area dedicated to them at the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival. Bounce houses, pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting, and an art project kept them occupied.

 

bluegrass festival kids area

But if they needed a break from all of the stimulation, they just had to take a few steps to the quiet banks of Center Creek, where they could dip their toes in the sparkling water or search for wildlife.

 

bluegrass festival center creek

With its idyllic setting, and family-friendly, alcohol-free environment, filled with music, food, and arts and crafts, it’s easy to see why the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival attracts so many people to this neck of the woods each September.

 

 

For more information on the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Spiva Membership Show

Admit it.

 

You do it.

 

I do it.

 

At one point every single one of us is guilty of plugging into mass-produced cultural entertainment of – let’s face it – marginal quality in our recreational time.

 

Why?

 

Because it’s easy. It requires very little effort on our part. Just log in to Netflix and zone away.

 

While doing so has its place in the hierarchy of destressing modes, we often forget that there are other ways in which we can unwind while simultaneously enriching our lives.

 

But that takes planning, and travel time, and money, you say. (Geez, you sound like my children!)

 

If your mission is to travel to Kansas City, or Tulsa, or northwest Arkansas to visit the revered cultural institutions there, then, yes, it will take some effort and planning.

 

But I’m here to tell you that there is another way. You can forgo that hassle and refill your cultural well right here in Joplin with very little planning or travel time.

 

And you can do it for free.

 

spiva membership dream

Perchance to Dream by Paula Giltner

 

On a recent Saturday, I announced to my brood that we would be going to the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts that afternoon to view the annual membership show. My declaration was met with belabored groans and steely glares that silently cursed me.

 

Who did I think I was trying to enrich their lives?

 

Afternoon came, and after thirty minutes of gently reminding my family that we would soon be leaving and barely receiving a grunt in response, I began turning off and unplugging various devices. You can guess how well that went over.

 

We finally piled into the minivan, along with a variety of Oscar-caliber whining and complaining. During the ten-minute drive to Spiva, I tuned out the back-seat grumbling and focused on my breathing, silently repeating this mantra: I will expose them to culture. I will expose them to culture. I will expose them to culture.

 

And they’ll like it, by golly. That’s the censored version of my thought, anyway.

 

Once inside the exhibit at Spiva, it only took a few minutes before I noticed a change in my kids. At times, they were actually getting lost in their thoughts while studying the artwork, and at other times they were enjoying the playful side of artistic expression.

 

 

spiva membership geese

My littlest chick posing by Ruth Millers Under the Feather

 

This exhibit was the Spiva Membership Show, which takes place at the end of every year. Admission to the exhibit is free, although donations are always welcome.

 

This annual exhibit showcases the work of around 100 area artists; we have some incredibly talented artists in the Joplin area, I might add.

 

The Membership Show was juried, and there were cash prizes totaling $2,400 awarded in the adult category, and prizes totaling $600 in the youth category.

 

spiva membership sunflowerShy Sunflower by Darla Hare

 

There were ceramics, watercolors, oil paintings, photographs, sculptures, and mixed media pieces.

 

 

spiva membership flightThe Dream of Flight by Jeffrey Jones

 

Not only was I excited to surround myself and my family with high-quality art, I was surprised to discover that I had met at least half of the artists whose works were on exhibit. I don’t say that to give you the impression that I frequent art galleries all the time, dahling. Actually, most of my time is spent running kids to their various activities, so on the rare occasion that I meet a local artist whose talent blows me away, it makes quite an impression on me.

 

It just so happens that there are some big players making their rounds in the arts community here in the Ozarks, and they’ve got my attention.

 

spiva membership wisemanPrincess and the Pea by Natalie Wiseman

 

An added bonus of the Membership Show is that many of the pieces were for sale; the pieces that I liked the most ranged in price from $100 to $3,200.

 

Dear Family: Read this post carefully for gift ideas for Christmas and/or my birthday, and/or just because you love me for exposing you to real-life culture. In addition to the pieces in the exhibit, there’s also some incredible jewelry in Spiva’s gift gallery that caught my eye. Oh, and a gift certificate to a Spiva art class would make a nice present, too – remember that funglass tray I made at a class there?

 

spiva membership doerrBirth of a Black Hole by Steve Doerr

 

When we were finished exploring the exhibit, I asked my family which pieces were their favorites. Here were their responses:

 

spiva membership danteTeenager’s favorite: Dave’s Pain by Kevin Myers. Is she trying to tell me something?

 

spiva membership eclipseMiddle child’s favorite: Eclipse by Josie Mai

 

spiva membership birdYoungest child’s favorite was Refugio: Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, by Brenda Sageng

 

spiva membership dogHusband’s favorite: Mama’s Little Angel by Robyn Cook

 

spiva membership ameliaMy favorite: St. Amelia – Patron Saint of Amassment and Collection by Michele DeSutter

 

As we were leaving Spiva’s parking lot, I asked my family, “Who had a good time?”

 

Every single one of those former complainers immediately answered, “I did!”

 

Ha!

 

Take that, Netflix. You don’t own us. We have the power to break free from our electronic trances and expose ourselves to real-life culture.

 

And we can fill up our cultural well right here in Joplin.

 

spiva membership circusLife is a Circus by Debbie Reed

 

 

Spiva is located at 222 West Third Street in Joplin.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre

“The GPS is telling me to turn here,” said my husband Travis. “Is this it?”

 

I’d been so busy selecting songs on my phone to play on the drive from Joplin to Carthage that I’d neglected my duties as navigator. Thank goodness Google Maps had been paying attention.

 

I glanced up to see a light brown building on top of a hill, nestled among several pine trees. A sign by the street read “Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre.”

 

stones throw sign

“This is it,” I said.

 

We had tickets for the Saturday evening performance of Mind Over Matt, a play by Scott Haan. The doors opened at 6:00 p.m., with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the performance at 7:30 p.m. Travis and I arrived shortly before dinner and, honestly, I was wondering how we would pass an entire hour before the play started. After all, we didn’t know anyone there.

 

Getting Seated

We handed our tickets to the usher who led us to our table. We were seated with six other people; half of them had been coming there for years, and the other half were newbies, just like us. I thought it might be awkward being seated at a table of strangers, but conversation came easily – and even lead to a serendipitous moment.

 

stones throw tables

About ten minutes after we were seated, a man sat down between Travis and the “regular” couple, whom he was meeting there. He looked familiar to me, and I mentally tried to place him. When that didn’t work (thanks a lot, memory), I started asking him questions to figure out where our paths might have crossed.

 

It finally dawned on me that I’d seen him at Joplin’s Stained Glass Theatre. His name is Karl Wendt, and he and his wife Shannon had performed songs at a children’s theater production (which they also directed) that we’d taken our daughter to see. When I told Karl I’d written a blog post about our experience at that performance, he said he knew that because he had just been reading that very post earlier that day. How cool is that?

 

Serendipitous.

 

Shortly after that aha! moment, a server came by with our first course, and Karl introduced us to her; she was his wife Shannon who was volunteering as a server at Stone’s Throw that evening. Up until that point, I wasn’t aware that the theater is a not-for-profit organization run completely by volunteers. As I observed the volunteers that night, I could tell that they were passionate about their cause by the way they attentively and enthusiastically served the guests; they genuinely wanted everyone to have a great time.

 

 

Dinner

Dinner service began with a Caesar salad, topped with fresh Parmesan cheese.

 

stones throw salad

The home-style entree was Salisbury Steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, whiskey glazed carrots, and a flaky dinner roll. It was simple and delicious.

 

stones throw salisbury steak

If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, you can let them know when you make your reservations and they will accommodate your needs.

 

Wine and beer tokens are available at the box office for those who are interested, and guests can purchase up to two tokens each.

 

 

The Performance

Before I knew it, the dinner hour was over and the play began. Even though our table was near the back, we could still see and hear everything, thanks to the intimate size of the theater.

 

The production’s engaging cast consisted of local actors who put their all into their roles and played them with an energy equal to that of the theater’s volunteers.

 

stones throw stage

The actors in Mind Over Matt portrayed different aspects of the main character Matt’s personality, kind of like the animated movie Inside Out. It was witty and quick-paced.

 

At intermission, dessert was served: warm peach cobbler bathed in cinnamon ice cream. It was dreamy.

 

stones throw peach cobbler

It was a great night; give me good food and quality entertainment and I’m one happy lady.

 

Considering that the theater charges just $26 per adult* for a fun and unique Saturday night, I think that Stone’s Throw is a hidden gem in our area.

 

But, thankfully, my GPS can find it.

 

 

Stone’s Throw Dinner Theatre is located at 2466 West Old 66 Boulevard in Carthage. Click here to visit its website, and here to see its Facebook page.

*Stone’s Throw pricing as of 10/17:  Adults (19-54) $26.00; Seniors (55 and up) $23.00; Student (w/ID)  $22.00; Youth (13-18) $21.00;  Children (6-12) $12.00; Children (under 5) free.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Jorge Leyva: Joplin’s World-Class Artist

It’s a unique sight to see in Joplin: the expansive green lawn in front of Jorge Leyva’s home dotted with a handful of large metal sculptures. Some of them are brightly colored, while others stand gray and raw, awaiting the time when they, too, will be painted into life.

 

leyva red sculpture

Like flowers in a garden, these exquisite sculptures bloom in their own time, in their own way. “I believe in beauty and in beautifying the place where I exist,” says Jorge.

 

And he doesn’t want to keep this beauty to himself. He wants others to see, feel, and experience the art themselves, which is why he’s opened his sculpture garden to the public – for free.

 

leyva blue sculpture

There aren’t many parks or other public spaces in town where people can go to see artistic pieces like fountains and sculptures. But that is beginning to change, and Jorge is playing a big part of the public art movement in Joplin.

 

His mission is to educate his town about “the importance of having something visual where people can participate and feel alive.” He recently dedicated a piece that he created for the Joplin Public Library called “Revering the Phoenix Effect,” which represents how Joplin rose from the dust after the tornado.

 

leyva library

At its dedication ceremony, Jorge watched as a little girl walked up to the sculpture and began playing with one of the houses on it like it was a Lego. “She was encountering herself with art,” says Jorge, and that’s the kind of experience that he hopes everyone who comes across his art will have.

 

A wise – and extremely humble – man, Jorge has worked as an artist for 25 years. Originally from Peru, he came to Missouri to study engineering, but a close friend helped him see that his true talent was expressing himself through art. He graduated from Missouri Southern State University with a BA, from Pittsburg State University with an MA, and then from California College of the Arts with an MFA.

 

He’s artwork has been sold worldwide, and his sculptures are carried by Nuart Gallery in Santa Fe. His work is valuable, but not necessarily affordable. For his private clients, he creates “luxury,” but for those of us living in Joplin, he creates accessibility. We get the chance to see his work at Joplin Public Library, Spiva Center for the Arts, as well as at Jorge’s own home.

 

Spiva-sculpture

Sculpture at Spiva Center for the Arts

 
It’s refreshing to see that an artist of Jorge’s caliber genuinely cares about his hometown and strives to contribute to his community in many ways. Not only does he share his artwork in public spaces, but he also collaborates with local people in finishing his metal sculptures, like by using a local sandblaster/painter who adds the vibrant color to his creations.

 

Visiting Jorge’s sculpture garden is a fulfilling experience, made even more so if you have the chance to interact with the artist himself. Talking to Jorge is like salve for the soul: he’s funny and comforting; charming and insightful. In order to visit, you’ll need to call ahead (417-623-8085): the gates are closed at night and on the weekends unless he’s at home working.

 

While you’re there, ask to see his indoor studio. While I was there, he was working on paintings with “cocoon clouds,” clouds filled with depth that represent metamorphosis.

 

leyva cloud coccoons

Who knew that so much could be represented in clouds?

 

Jorge did.

 

While his work has changed over time, one theme that has remained constant, in both his work and his life, is gratitude – gratitude for his creativity, for the people who interact with his work, and for the people who support it. “Joplin has embraced me beautifully. Nothing is equal to having my own town and its people embrace me so well.”

 

leyva scales of nature

“Weighing in on the Scales of Nature” represents the rebuilding of Joplin after the tornado. “People in Joplin are resilient,” says Jorge. “They are about home.”

 

To visit Jorge Leyva’s sculpture garden at 1305 East Vandalia Street, call 417-623-8085. Click here to see Jorge’s website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Art Studios in Joplin

Have you ever wanted to make your own jewelry? A glass ornament? Ceramic dinnerware?

 

Or maybe you’d like to paint your very own picture to hang in your home?

 

You can learn how to do all those things right here in town because the art studios in Joplin offer classes which cover a wide variety of skills, materials, and techniques.

 

And, no, you don’t have to be a Picasso to enjoy taking one of these classes. The mission of these studios is to make art accessible to the general public, so they offer classes for every skill level.

 

rsvp people painting

In addition to offering art classes, many of these studios have galleries displaying the work of talented artists in the community – and it’s for sale. So if you’re looking for an original piece, either for yourself or to give as a gift, definitely visit these galleries.

 

The Studios

Crackpot Pottery: This is “the place to be if you’re interested in getting a little dirty all in the name of art and fun,” according to its Facebook page.

 

crackpot-pig

With drop-in Saturday classes, students can get one-on-one instruction as they shape mud into decorative items. Sometimes those artistic items serve an additional purpose, like this cute – and useful – piggy bank. 3820 East 20th Street

 

 

Firehouse Pottery: Turn a piece of unpainted pottery into your very own work of art at this studio. Unpainted items include tiles, mugs, plates, vases, wine glasses, holiday decor, animal figurines for kids (and adults!) to paint, and much more.

 

FIrehouse shelves

Walk in and paint any time, or sign up for a special session like “Date Night” or “Story Time Pottery” (for the little ones). 122 South Main Street

George A. Spiva Center for the Arts: This “fine art hub of the Four States” offers classes in painting, anime, fused glass, photography, jewelry, and more.

For children, Spiva offers ongoing weekly classes which introduce them to a variety of media (“Preschooler and Pal Art Class” and “Creation Station”).

 

art spiva

Browse through Spiva’s gift shop to see original work from local and regional artists. Of course, no visit is complete without walking through the galleries to see the latest exhibits featuring artists from all over the world. 222 West Third Street.

 

Local Color Art Gallery & Studio: This gathering place for local artists offers Saturday painting classes for beginning and intermediate students, ages 8 and up (all materials are included), plus Wednesday classes for more experienced painters (who bring their own materials).

 

The studio also offers a monthly “Vino and Van Gogh” class, where instructors lead you through the process of painting a work by one of the masters in the art world, such as Van Gogh or Monet, while you enjoy a glass of wine.

 

art local color

Walk through the gallery to see the abundant talent of our area’s artists, including paintings, art glass, jewelry, woodwork, ceramics, hand-dyed silk scarves and more. 1027 South Main Street

 
Phoenix Fired Art: This studio offers beginning clay classes for both adults and children. During Saturday drop-in classes, people of all skill levels can come in and work at their own levels.

 

Artists who are skilled in ceramics can purchase an Open Studio Membership, which allows them access to the equipment in the studio so they can work on their projects.

 

art phoenix

Phoenix Fired Art also sells pieces made by local and regional artists. You’ll find ceramics, jewelry, textiles, art glass, and more. 1603 South Main Street

 

RSVPaint: Relax, sip, visit, and paint with your friends at this art studio. Enjoy a glass of wine (or beverage of your choice) while RSVP’s instructors lead you through the painting process, step by step. Capture the image of your pet on canvas at the monthly Paint-Your-Pet session, where your favorite pet photo…

 

rsvp micky photo

…becomes a piece of art.

 

rsvp micky

Painters of all ages are welcome during designated times, such as “Saturday Family Paint” and “Walk-In Wednesdays.” 223 West 3rd Street

 

Art in Joplin is thriving right now, thanks in large part to one organization whose mission it is to create awareness of cultural arts in the community: Connect2Culture.

 

Each week, Connect2Culture sends out a newsletter containing a comprehensive list of upcoming classes and events in the Joplin arts community; I highly recommend subscribing to it!

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Heartland Opera Theatre

Last Friday night, I saw my first opera in Joplin and it was entertaining and funny.

 

Opera, funny?

 

That’s right. Believe, me – I’m the last person who would have expected an opera piece to be comical.

 

Prior to Friday night, I envisioned all operas being sung in a foreign language (Italian, of course) and centering around a heartbreaking love triangle or unrequited love theme. In other words, I believed that operas were highly emotional productions with tragic endings – certainly nothing that would make me laugh.

 

But my misconception was shattered when I saw Heartland Opera Theatre‘s production of “A Most Ingenious Paradox,” which was a compilation of the Victorian-era works of the famous cheeky duo of Gilbert and Sullivan. In other words, lots of fun and frivolity.

 

HOT HMS

There were songs (sung in English!) from “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “The Mikado,” and more. What’s ironic is that I knew the lyrics to “I’m Called Little Buttercup” and “I Am the Captain of the Pinafore” from “H.M.S. Pinafore” because my class performed that in elementary school.  All of these years, I thought we had performed a musical and it was actually an opera!

 

HOT Buttercup

Another pleasant surprise was the talent of the performers in the production. Up until recently, I thought I’d have to go to Tulsa or Kansas City to see a quality operatic performance. I was completely unaware that I could actually hear quality opera performed here in Joplin.

 

HOT logo

Heartland Opera Theatre  is a non-profit organization. It was formed in 1998 and offers two productions each season. The organization features performers from all over the world, and also highlights the talent of local artists. After listening to the performers on Friday night, I admit I was amazed to hear such professional voices on the small stage at MSSU’s Corley Auditorium.

 

HOT Mikado

There were five singers in “A Most Ingenious Paradox”: Dyanne Lile (soprano), Lisa Marie Gerstenkorn (contralto), Jayson Canton (tenor), Patrick Howle (baritone), and Zachary Pettit (baritone). All of performers are currently either students or instructors at local universities. Between them, they have performed all over the country with companies like the Ohio Light Opera, the Tulsa Opera Company, and the Mobile Opera in Alabama.

 

HOT Mikado 2

The singers were accompanied by a pianist in this production, but other Heartland Opera Theatre productions are accompanied by a full orchestra, such as Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” and Kurt Weil’s folk opera “Down in the Valley.”

 

HOT company

After my Friday night experience, I have to say “thank you” to Heartland Opera Theatre for opening my eyes to a wide range of operas (comic opera – I had no clue!), and also to the high caliber singing talent that resides right here in the Four States.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

RSVPaint Date Night

My husband Travis and I love our occasional, and much-needed, date nights. Once the kids are shipped off to grandma’s house, here’s what we typically do:

 

Date Night Option #1: Stay in and binge-watch some Netflix.

 

Date Night Option #2: Go out for a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

 

Date Night Option #3: Go out for nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, then come home and binge-watch some Netflix.

 

Aren’t we exciting?

 

Sometimes even we bore ourselves. That’s when we know that it’s time to look for some new activities to shake things up on date night.

 

Recently, I signed us up for the Date Night session at RSVPaint, a paint-and-sip art studio in downtown Joplin. Since neither one of us is really good at painting, I knew there would be no danger of intra-couple competition (unlike the time we played laser tag; I beat him at that, by the way).

 

So if neither of us is a painter, why did I sign us up for RSVPaint’s Date Night? First, so we could learn something new together. Second, so we could encourage one another in the process (just kidding – I did it so we could laugh at each other).

 

rsvpaint-date-group-sitting

The studio was packed when we got there, and I was glad that I signed up ahead of time online, although walk-ins are always welcome, if there are still easels available.

 

We started sipping some wine – to get our creative juices going, of course. There’s a bar in the back of the studio where you can purchase beer, wine, mixed drinks, soda, water, and snacks. You can also bring your own beverages; we brought a bottle of our favorite Merlot which the bartender uncorked for a small fee.

 

Then we got settled in front of our easels. Our supplies included four paintbrushes, a palate of five paint colors, and an apron to protect our clothes.

 

The theme for our Date Night session was “Under My Umbrella,” and we were going to create a diptych. A diptych consists of two paintings that, when placed side by side, make one scene.

 

rsvpaint-date-example-painting

I chose to paint the male figure and Travis painted the female, although some of the other couples did the opposite.

 

rsvpaint-date-instructor

Jordan was our instructor that night, leading us through the process stroke by stroke, and color by color. She was laid-back in her teaching style and supportive of everyone’s creative expression. She made me feel like Picasso.

 

Or maybe that was the vino…

 

rsvpaint-date-white-trees

We started painting our backgrounds, then added our trees. I do admit that Travis’ trees were better than mine.

 

rsvpaint-date-colored-trees

Then it came time to paint our male and female figures. If Travis were a wise man, he would have painted a dainty feminine figure like everyone else in the class did.

 

rsvpaint-date-group-standing

But, no.

 

My renegade husband chose that particular moment to “express his individuality.” While everyone else’s figure was black, his female was bright yellow.

 

rsvpaint-date-our-painting

That, combined with its, um, interesting shape resulted in something of a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George.

 

rsvpaint-date-curious

Thanks, honey.

 

Did you notice how slim I made my male figure?

 

Did you?

 

rsvpaint-date-couple

I guess I’ll forgive him because spending a few hours creating a one-of-a-kind diptych at RSVPaint was a welcome break from our usual date night routine.

 

Plus, it gives us something to chuckle about for the rest of our lives.

 

 

Group photo courtesy of RSVPaint’s Facebook page. RSVPaint is located at 223 Third Street. Click here to visit its website. 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Siblings Improv

The pounding of my heart grew louder, faster. My mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls. I took a sip of water. When I did, the paper napkin under the glass stuck to my sweaty palms.

 

I had no reason to be nervous. I was a mere audience member seated in the shadows, waiting for someone else to step into the spotlight on stage. Yet, I felt anxious for the performers that night. After all, the audience expected them to come up with entertaining material on the spot.

 

siblings-guys

I couldn’t wrap my brain around the concept. I’m the type of person who needs to write down my thoughts in order to process them, so the idea of having to immediately construct a story while acting it out gives my stomach butterflies. That’s way too much pressure – even to witness!

 

But moments into the performance of the improvisational group Siblings Improv, I began to relax. These actors were sharp, going through scenes like they’d rehearsed them several times before. In reality, they were making up the material based on suggestions from audience members. And in the process, they remained as cool as cucumbers.

 

siblings-group-front

Their spontaneous creativity was off the charts and reminded me of watching the Drew Carey TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” which introduced improv comedy to the masses. That night, Siblings Improv was introducing improv to Joplin.

 

This group of actors – none of whom are actually siblings – was formed in 2013 by Drew Crisp and Eric Epperson. They had taken classes at The Second City in Chicago and wanted to bring that style of theatre to Joplin. And they have, performing regularly at JBs Downtown Joplin, where I happened to be watching them that night, along with a couple of my girlfriends and a house full of people hungry for inventive entertainment.

siblings-ladies

It was my first time watching live improv theatre and I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Before each game or sketch, the group collected written suggestions from the audience then quickly began acting out their interpretation. It would have taken me a good five minutes to process, plan, and execute the suggestions (so never choose me to be on your team for charades), but these actors were right on it, never missing a beat. Honestly, I was a little intimidated by their MENSA-worthy response time in their games and sketches.

 

The sketch “Homeschool 2072” involved a teacher from the future presenting history lessons from the year 2016 to her students. The audience was asked to supply topics pertaining to current events, and then various performers would act them out. With it being a month before a controversial presidential election, you can guess which topic came up repeatedly!

 

“Swipe Right” was a game where each actor sat in a chair and pretended to create a dating video. During the videos, the actors would extol their best – or quirkiest – qualities, depending on what was written on the slips of paper provided by the audience. Below is what one of the troop members said when she introduced herself in her “video”:

 

I’m Susan.

Not “B. Anthony.”

“B. Tony.”

 

siblings-susan

Susan B. Tony

 

Quick wit – I love it!

 

In addition to performances, the Siblings Improv also offers creativity workshops, teaching everyday people (like me) the art of improvisation. Maybe I should go to one of these workshops to overcome my anxiety about performing in public. 

 

Siblings Improv’s performances are both intellectual and entertaining, and provide a unique, big-city type addition to the nightlife offerings in Joplin.

 

For more information about Siblings Improv, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Joplin Arts Fest

Ah, September in southwest Missouri.

 

It’s a time when the weighty summer air dissipates, revealing a clear sky the color of a robin’s egg. After spending the sizzling days of summer indoors in the air-conditioning, people emerge from their homes to breathe in the cooler air and to reconnect – with the outdoors, and with each other.

 

When summer hibernation ends, the community festival season begins. One of the first festivals of the season is Joplin Arts Fest.  While art is the star of the festival, you can also listen to live music, grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks, cool down with a drink from the beer/wine tent, and watch the kids get creative doing artistic activities (and get their faces painted, too).

 

joplin arts fest overall

The tranquil setting of Joplin’s Mercy Park serves as a backdrop for this festival which features over 40 local and regional artists displaying a variety of work. There’s pottery, glass art, sculptures, drawings, photography, woodworking, and jewelry. Here are some of the highlights of art I saw, along with links to the artists’ websites so you can see for yourself how gifted they are.

 

Steve Doerr of The Wooden Doerr turns pieces of wood into works of art.

 

joplin arts-fest-wooden-doerr

To me, it’s a miracle how he does it. Check out the brilliant turquoise running through this piece of maple. It’s absolutely stunning!

 

arts-fest-wooden-doerr-turquoise

The work of Andrew Batcheller, a Kansas City native living in Joplin, has an otherworldly feeling to it.

 

joplin arts fest batcheller

Batcheller frequently uses birds as subjects to represent the human condition. His work is powerful and deep, and I find myself seeking the artist’s description of his work in order to fully understand the meaning behind each piece.

 

Sometimes photographs can look like paintings, and the work of Ron Mellott of Bloomington, Indiana, is an example of that. Here is a photo he took of some aspens in autumn in Colorado.

 

joplin arts fest mellott

Now for Natalie Wiseman, a previous Joplin Arts Fest Best in Show winner.

 

arts-fest-natalie-wiseman

I was introduced to Natalie’s work at Spiva Center for the Arts a few years ago and became an instant fan. Her bright, somewhat surreal still life paintings are whimsical and fun, like this one called Sink or Swim.

 

arts-fest-wiseman-sink-or-swim

Arts Fest also has booths offering children’s activities, like this one from Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center where kids can make a painting with a fish stamp.

 

arts-fest-fish-painting

Live music has its place at Joplin Arts Fest, as well.  There’s a pavilion next to the water where local musicians perform throughout the day. Past performers include JOMO JazzJoshin the Giants (bluegrass and country), Kufara (a marimba ensemble), and Ozark Bards (folk songs of the Ozarks).

 

joplin arts fest music

Cool off with an adult beverage from the beer/wine tent, and be sure to sample from the variety of food trucks at the festival, including Blondies Woodfired Wheelhouse PizzaEl Taco Loco (street tacos), Fried Fancies (gourmet funnel cakes), and Pineapple Bliss (low-calorie, soft-serve frozen treats).

 

joplin arts fest-pineapple-bliss

Turn off the A/C, open those windows, and let that cool September air flow through your house. Meanwhile, you can join your friends and neighbors in beautiful Mercy Park to celebrate the beauty of the season at Joplin Arts Fest.

 


Joplin Arts Fest is held at Mercy Park, 3002 St. John’s Boulevard. For details about this year’s event, visit JoplinArtsFest.com.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

(Updated 9/21/18)

Downtown Joplin Mural Tour

When people make a plan to view art in a city, they usually seek out places like galleries and museums. But that means that they’re missing out on seeing artwork that’s readily accessible and free to view.

 

I’m talking about public murals.

 

Public murals not only mirror the character of the people and places where they are displayed, they are a physical part of them, transforming plain brick facades into chapters of a city’s cultural history.

 

This art form is currently thriving in Joplin, and more and more chapters of our community’s story continue to be written with each stroke of a paintbrush.

 

Just in downtown Joplin alone, there are 10 locations where people can view public murals. I recently spent an afternoon strolling through the heart of the city to see these murals, and because I’m obsessive about organization, I’ve put together a walking tour based on what I saw for people who want to learn more about Joplin’s public art but don’t know where to start.

 

Well, I’ll tell you how to start.

 

Start by checking out this a map of the different downtown murals:

 

Downtown-Mural-Tour-Map 2

 

Then follow along below as I offer more details about each one.

 

And the best part?

 

It won’t cost you a dime.

 

THE TOUR

 

With the exception of mural #11, the tour makes a loop, beginning and ending close to Memorial Hall (212 W. 8th St.), where there’s ample space to park your car. You can then hop in your car and drive to mural #11. Or don’t park your car at all and just follow the tour entirely behind the wheel, if that suits you.

 

The choice is yours to make; the art is yours to view.

 

 

  1. Celebrating the Performing Arts in Joplin (2014), Main and 8th Streets

When I first saw this work, painted by contemporary realist and New York native Garin Baker, I thought it represented the world-renowned performing arts community in Baker’s home town. After all, I didn’t recognize the buildings in the mural.

 

downtown mural tour performing wide

 

When I looked closer, I was surprised to see these buildings did exist in Joplin, and they served as the foundation of a thriving performing arts community right here in southwest Missouri.

 

Divided into three sections, this mural depicts the past, present, and future of the performing arts in Joplin. The left section shows the energy of the street in front of the Club Theater on a weekend evening in the early 1900s, when people came into the city to see live theater shows.

 

 

downtown mural tour performing left

 

The center part of the mural shows the Fox Theater, which was built in the 1930s. It was at this theater where Joplinites were introduced to talking picture shows.

downtown mural performing center

 

 

The right panel shows contemporary performers (who are actual dancers from Karen’s Dance Studio in Joplin). They represent the success of Joplin’s performing arts today, and the hope for its future.

 

downtown mural tour performing right

 

 

  1. Geometric Mural #3 (2015)7th Street and Wall Avenue

 

This simple mural adds a bit of freshness to the side of this old brick building. It is one of several murals created by TANK, a collaborative public arts group that supports, promotes, and creates public art in Joplin.

 

downtown mural tour geometric 3

 

 

  1. Graffiti, in the alley between 6th and 5th Streets, and Joplin and Wall Avenues

 

Before you dismiss graffiti as senseless vandalism, take a walk through this downtown alley. Seeing the talent of these Joplin artists reinforces the idea that graffiti is being recognized as a legitimate form of art these days.

 

downtown mural tour graffiti far

 

I love how the mural below jumps off the building and continues into the asphalt.

 

downtown mural tour graffiti close

 

  1. Paper and Pencils (2014)5th Street and Wall Avenue

 

Initially, seeing this mural reminded me that I needed to write down my grocery list, but I was pretty confident that artist Taylor Kubicek had something else in mind when he painted these airborne pencils. After researching Kubicek’s intent, I learned that this mural is a metaphor for life’s ideas which rise from the ground, then transform into winged things that take full flight towards their destination. Not all ideas continue to fly; some are criticized and shot down back to earth.

 

downtown mural tour pencils

 

 

  1. Geometric Mural #1 (2013)3rd Street and Wall Avenue

 

Art is featured both outside and inside of this building, which is the home of Spiva Center for the Arts. Inside is an art gallery with free admission (which is open on Sundays!), and outside is another mural by the public arts group TANK, called Geometric Mural #1.

 

downtown mural tour geometric 1

 

It’s always a challenge trying to get a photo of this mural without a car parked in front of it (thanks to the many patrons visiting Spiva), but you can still see most of the mural here.

 

 

  1. Drawn to the Power of Words (2015)2nd Street and Wall Avenue


Yet another TANK project, this two-part mural’s theme is the power of the written word.

 

downtown mural tour power corner

 

Admittedly, I did not grasp the meaning behind this piece until I did some research; the symbolism is always much deeper than my linear mind can process at first.

 

The mural on the left represents the inner workings of the printing press (go, Gutenberg!); the black and red wires represent the positive and negative poles of power, which parallel the positive and negative reactions of the very words they produce.

 

downtown mural tour power printing press

 

On the right side of the mural, those same wires twist and converge, ending at a light bulb. A moth is drawn to the light bulb, as we all are drawn towards the light that is created by language.

 

downtown mural tour power moth

 

Whoa. That’s some heavy stuff.

 

 

 

  1. Downtown Gateway Mural (2014)Main and A Streets

 

The theme of these two murals seems much more straightforward to me.

 

downtown mural tour gateway wide

 

The mural on the left welcomes visitors who are entering downtown Joplin from the north.

 

downtown mural tour jomo

 

 

The mural on the right highlights prominent attractions and people of our city, including George Spiva, a prominent businessman, philanthropist, and supporter of the arts.

 

downtown mural tour gateway spiva

 

 

This crowd-sourced project was organized by Burt Bucher, a professor at MSSU, who assembled a team of students and volunteers to create this massive pair of murals.

 

 

  1. I Am Joplin Mural (2013)Main and 6th Streets

 

I love optical illusions, and this mural offers an quite an illusionary experience. Standing across the street from it, I see the vibrant red words “I Am Joplin” featured in the center of a comparatively bland black-and-white background.

 

downtown mural tour i am far

 

But while standing directly in front of the mural, I see that those black-and-white forms are anything but bland. They are photos of over 300 unique Joplinites.

 

downtown mural tour i am close

 

Designed by the organization Art Feeds as a “love letter to Joplin,” this project recruited Joplin residents to complete the sentence “I Am…” in relation to their role in the community. Kevin Deems Photography snapped the photos of people holding up signs with their completed sentences and the photos were compiled in the mural.

 

 

  1. Murals at City Hall602 South Main Street

 

Okay, so these murals are inside of a building but they are still free for the public to view. They are housed in Joplin City Hall, which is open Monday through Friday, so if you take this tour during those days, then you can peek at the following murals:

 

Joplin at the Turn of the Century (1973): This mural was painted by Regionalist Thomas Hart Benton, who was born in nearby Neosho, Missouri. It was his final signed mural.

 

downtown mural tour city hall hart benton

 

Here, Benton captures the dynamic energy of Joplin during its booming mining days, using images to represent the positive side of prosperity (like the hope-filled faces of the family in the covered wagon arriving in Joplin to pursue their dream), and the negative side of success (the rampant gambling at Joplin’s House of Lords saloon).

 

If you’ve ever wondered how a project like this comes together, you can walk up to the mezzanine level of City Hall to see the exhibit “Evolution of a Mural.”

 

Route 66 – Joplin, Missouri (2010): No, this isn’t another work of Benton’s, but you’re close. Benton’s grandson, Anthony Benton Gude, painted this mural which depicts Joplin in the mid-1900s, during the height of the Route 66 culture.

 

murals gude

 

Heartstrings of America (2011): This piece is a powerful representation of the strength and compassion of the human spirit. After the 2011 tornado devastated Joplin, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” came to the city with its project “7 Homes in 7 Days,” which rebuilt some of the leveled homes within just a week’s time.

 

downtown mural tour city hall heart

 

Part of this project also included having volunteers hammer nails into their hometowns on this wooden map of America, and then using colored string to connect their nails to the one centered in Joplin.

 

 

  1. Route 66 Mural Park (2013)619 South Main Street

 

The final stop on the downtown mural tour pays homage to the Mother Road culture – and offers a great photo op.

 

downtown mural tour 66 wide

 

Route 66 Mural Park features two nostalgic murals and an oversized 45-record imprint of Get Your Kicks on Route 66.

 

The upper mural is called Cruisin’ into Joplin, and it shows a vintage car arriving in Joplin on Route 66 from the west.

 

downtown mural tour 66 cruisin

 

The lower mural is called The American Ribbon, and it traces the route of the Mother Road from start to finish. Jutting out from the mural is a bifurcated 1964 red Corvette, which makes a fun backdrop for photos.

 

downtown mural tour 66 car

 

Both murals were created with ceramic tiles from Joplin’s own Images in Tile.

 

11. Belonging to All the Hands Who Build (2016): Northwest corner of Broadway and Mineral Streets

 

You’ll have to backtrack a bit to see this 60-foot mural in Joplin’s East Town section, but it will be worth it. If you’re following the tour in numerical order, you’ll head east on Broadway (old Route 66), and you’ll need to turn left on Mineral in order to see the mural because it is painted on the east side of the historic Earl Smith grocery store building.

 

murals belonging full mural

East Town is the only historical African American neighborhood in Joplin, and its residents came together to create this mural which tells their own stories, as well as those of important African American figures in Joplin’s history.

 

murals belonging hummingbird

The first time I saw it, I was awed by its simple beauty. Pink magnolia blossoms and graceful hummingbirds share the space with prominent figures in East Town history.

 

murals belonging key

 

On the lower right side of the mural, there is a key to the people depicted in the mural:

 

1. Betty Smith: Current East Town resident who is passionate about preserving this neighborhood’s history.

 

2. Melissa Cuther: Schoolteacher who helped the Duke Ellington Orchestra find housing when they came to Joplin because no area hotels would allow them to stay because of the color of their skin.

 

3. Duke Ellington Orchestra

 

4. Marion Dial: Principal of Lincoln High School, which provided education for African Americans before desegregation.

 

5. Clovis Steele/Buddie Mitchell: Clovis wrote a book about growing up in East Town. Buddie is his nephew and current neighborhood resident.

 

6. Marvin McMillan and Nellie: Marvin is a Lincoln High alumnus and Nellie is his dog.

 

Whew! You made it.

 

Are you tired?

 

I bet.

 

You’ve just experienced a crash course in Joplin culture.

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.