Charlie Lucas creates ‘toys’ for kids at school workshop

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, October 11, 2012

Alabama folk artist Charlie Lucas conducted an art workshop at Goshen Elementary School Thursday. He took time to talk with Ronnie Taylor, a fifth-grade student about his “sculpture” and admire his creativity.

When Charlie Lucas was 14 years old, he left home to make his way in the world.

He left with a box of crackers and a jar of peanut butter.

Today, Lucas, a sculptor and painter, is one of the most highly acclaimed folk artists in the country and is invited to lecture about his art from elementary school classrooms to the “hallowed halls” of Yale University.

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Lucas told fifth-grade students at Goshen Elementary School Thursday that he only has a fourth grade education but he has feasted on “the fruit.”

“The fruit is knowledge and it comes in baskets,” he said. “Your teachers offer you the whole basket. Take it.”

As a young boy, Lucas said he loved to make things. He made his own toys.

“Everybody thought I was crazy because I played with what I created,” he said.

Lucas calls his creations “toys” and, through his creations, he lives his life all over again.

Having learned to live by his wits, Lucas told the students that their hands and their heads are the “machines” that they should learn to be depend on, not “those machines you walk around with and miss the world that’s going on around you.”

“Take this fruit that your teachers are offering you and put it … where?” he asked Eric Jackson.

To Lucas’ surprise, the student answered, “in your heart.”

“Did you hear what this little fellow said? In your heart. That’s so sweet. That’s where we should put everything, — in our hearts.”

Lucas said his heart is filled with things of beauty.

“Some people don’t think that trash is beautiful but it is,” he said. “When we take trash and make something out of it that has new energy, it can be beautiful.”

Knowledge and creativity can take a person anywhere he or she wants to go, Lucas said.

“I make toys and I built my business in a shoebox and with $10 and I don’t ever forget where I came from. Whatever I do, I want to know that I have done my best.

“When my children left home, I gave them $2.50, a box of crackers and a peanut butter sandwich and told them to go as far as they can in life. It’s what you’ve got in your head that matters when you go out in the world, not what you’ve got in your shoes.”