Inspiring art

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, July 19, 2012

Charlie Lucas talks with teachers during the ArtBridges education workshop in Troy, Ala., Thursday, July 19, 2012. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Folk artist educates teachers through creative workshop

If there’s a need for a testimonial for the Tony Scott ArtBridges Educational Teacher’s Workshop, Tracey Thomas is the one.

The ArtBridges workshop began at The Studio in Troy on Wednesday and concluded Thursday with a presentation by Alabama folk artist Charlie Lucas.

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Thirty-six teachers from the Troy City and Pike County school systems attended the 5th Annual ArtBridges workshop.

“Last year was great but this year was awesome,” Thomas said. “The creative juices were flowing. I mean flowing.”

Thomas said learning new ways to engage her students was exciting and motivated her to eagerly get back into the classroom at Troy Elementary School.

“Any time that you can bring something new to the classroom, you can hardly wait to put it into action,” she said.

“Art can be a part of any subject area and we learned from Charlie Lucas that you can make art from anything. He was incredible and I think that he inspired all of us.”

As he put together materials for an art project, Lucas entertained the teachers with stories of his life and how it has been shaped by art.

“Everybody was completely focused on Mr. Lucas and what he had to say,” Thomas said.

“You weren’t even aware of the time or what he was doing, you just wanted to hear everything that he had to say. He was inspiring.”

Lucas, the artist; Lucas the teacher or Lucas the storyteller?

Perhaps, it was all three.

Tara Sartorius, leader and director of the Tony Scott ArtBridges Educational Teacher’s Workshop, agreed that Lucas was inspiring.

“His life is an example of how art can enrich a person’s life and how to live artfully,” she said. “Charlie Lucas is creative in every way – in his soul, his vision, his attitude and his point of view.

“He has such a wonderful spirit about him – a creative spirit.

“ He has a way of making you feel good about yourself and wanting to share your talents with others.”

Lucas has come a long way from the time he left home at age 14 and lived on peanut butter and crackers.

“My family threw me away,” he said. “They thought something was wrong with me. A lot of people did.”

In his good humor, Lucas said he understood why.

“In school, the teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said I wanted to be a ballerina and study classical music,” Lucas said, laughing. “That was a bad day for me.”

Lucas said nobody knew what to do with him – the young boy that wanted to make toys and tinker with things.

His great-granddaddy was a blacksmith and Lucas must have inherited his interest in and ability to work with metal.

Although he only has a fourth grade education, Lucas has been able to make a name for himself in the world of art as a metal sculptor – as the “Tin Man.”

And, the Tin Man is doing all right for himself.

“I promised God that if He would let me find something that I could do better than anybody else, I would be honorable and serve Him in a humble way,” Lucas said.

That “something” that Lucas could do was art – metal sculpture.

Lucas is one of the most respected and recognized folk artists in America.

He has given “talks” in eight countries and a book has been published about his life and his art.

Lucas is very comfortable with himself.

He told the story of the time he was in Vence, France for a celebration of Alabama art at the invitation of Nall, an artist of international acclaim.

A man spoke to Lucas and he casually spoke back.

“Nall came running over and asked me if I knew who that man was,” Lucas said.

“I said that I didn’t. He said it was Ringo Starr, one of The Beatles. And, I said, ‘Well, he didn’t know me either.’”

Fame didn’t come early or easily for Lucas but he uses his struggles in life and his experience in art to teach and inspire others.

He truly believes that “If you can dream, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.”

The Tony Scott ArtBridges Educational Teacher’s Workshop” was produced in partnership with the Alabama Alliance for the Arts Education and sponsored by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Lockheed Martin, the Daniel Foundation of Alabama, the Wells Fargo Foundation, the Caring Foundation of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and Art-Time Studios.