Posts Tagged 'Stewpot Art Program'

Art Runs in the Family

Creativity is all around us in Dallas, and we love highlighting and honoring our local creative community at the Museum. This year, we have the special opportunity to celebrate the work of two relatives: Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson, whose drawings are in For a Dreamer of Houses, and his nephew Stephen McGee, whose painting is featured in We Are ARTISTS: The Stewpot Art Program.   

Willard Watson, affectionately known as “The Texas Kid,” was raised in Dallas and wore many hats—literally and figuratively—over his lifetime. He served as a solider in the South Pacific  in World War II, and was also a tailor, a cook, a carpenter, an upholsterer, a shade-tree mechanic, a handyman, and an actor. Around town, he was best known for his creative homemade outfits, customized cars, and front yard sculpture garden.

Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson’s customized car
Photograph of Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson seated outside of his home and posing in front of the sculptures placed in his yard for his portrait. Creator: Unknown, 1993–01. This photograph is part of the collection entitled The Black Academy of Arts and Letters Records and was provided by UNT Libraries Special Collections.

His artworks often included found objects and everyday materials. Using colored markers, pencil, and paper, Watson created a series of Life Cycle drawings that showed scenes from his home and family life and were narrated with vivid captions. Thinking back on his childhood in Dallas, he wrote:

My middle sister, Mable, had taken sick and I to go down to Elm Street to Otis drug store to pick up some medicine, But first I had to get some money from Daddy, who worked at S&S grocery store. I had to walk a mile down Central tracks and a mile back. And when I got Back my mother was drinking Buttermilk, I will never forget it. Tears were in her eyes, and it made me feel very Bad. She was depressed. She Loved her children so much that when one got sick she’d show it By tears. She say she Be praying But she always had tears. I kind cheered her up. The other Children were out Playing.

Willard Watson, “The Texas Kid,” born 1921 in Caddo Parish, LA; died 1995 in Dallas, TX; Untitled, 1985. Colored marker and pencil. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Friends of Willard Watson, 1985.181.8

Watson shared his love of art with his nephew Stephen McGee. McGee relished working in acrylic paint, pastels, colored pencils, and charcoal mediums. He particularly enjoyed portraiture, and he completed art projects for the nonprofit organization CitySquare that involved creating drawings of former talk show host Jay Leno, Lyle Lovett, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and Dallas Cowboy Tyron Smith. McGee had loved art since he was a small child, and next to his love for God, art was his life.

Stephen McGee working on a portrait of Robert Johnson
Retrieved April 10, 2020, from FPCDallas
Fast Cheetah by Stephen McGee

McGee became a member of the Stewpot Art Program community in 2010. The Stewpot offers a safe haven for people experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness in Dallas, and the Art Program provides class time and art supplies for individuals looking to express themselves creatively, grow as artists, and support themselves through the sale of their work. You can learn more about The Stewpot and how to support their work here.

The Art Program helped McGee take his artistic practice to a higher level, form lasting friendships, and make his life more positive. McGee passed away on August 8, 2019, leaving a host of family and friends who love and remember Stephen “The Artist” McGee for his tremendous resilience, kindness, and creativity.

How are you spending time with loved ones right now? How are Willard’s scenes similar or different from your home life? Have you ever shared a special legacy with an important person in your life or passed down something you care about to a younger generation? These artworks make us think of home, family, and the ways that we can support one another during these uncertain times. 

We hope the artwork and life stories of Willard Watson and Stephen McGee inspire you to create, share joy with your loved ones, and continue to explore our city’s rich creative communities in For a Dreamer of Houses and We Are ARTISTS: The Stewpot Art Program.

Stephen McGee with his Stewpot Art Program class on a visit to the DMA. Stephen is third from the right in the white shirt.

Mary Ann Bonet is the Director of Community Engagement and Lindsay O’Connor is the Manager of School Programs at the DMA.

Home Is Where the Art Is

“Now this is the good stuff,” notes Leon Pollard, an artist from the Stewpot Art Program, as he settles in front of Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre’s The Abduction of Europa. We’re exploring flowers in the DMA’s collection, and Leon, who was recently commissioned to paint a mural for his church, immediately points out how Pierre skillfully guides the viewer’s eye across the expanse of the oversized 18th-century canvas. He breaks into a characteristic grin and says, “I really look forward to coming every month. It’s always an education—an inspiration.”

Leon sharing his work in the Sculpture Garden

This summer we marked the one-year anniversary of our monthly gallery teaching program in partnership with The Stewpot, a community outreach program that serves homeless and at-risk populations here in Dallas. Beyond addressing basic survival needs, The Stewpot offers enrichment opportunities for healing, financial support, and personal growth. The Stewpot Art Program offers class time and art supplies to individuals looking to express themselves creatively, grow as artists, and support themselves through the sale of their work. Thanks to Tanya Krueger, one of our DMA docents who also volunteers for The Stewpot, we were able to connect and coordinate a monthly visit for Stewpot artists here at the DMA. Visit by visit, we’ve gotten to know each other and the artists have grown more comfortable in the Museum. A favorite memory of mine is when one of the artists, Donald of Dallas, dropped by to visit during a rainy day, knowing he was welcome at the DMA.

Working with the Stewpot Art Program has been an eye-opening introduction to the realities of homelessness in our community. Our diverse group includes former teachers, first responders, and veterans. Importantly, there is no single narrative of homelessness, and we should never assume that homelessness reflects the consequence of an individual’s poor decisions. Over the past year, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the importance of building relationships and inviting our community into the Museum. This point was driven home when Leon observed, “I used to sleep in the Arts District because it’s peaceful and you can sometimes hear music. I never knew this was here! Now I learn something new every visit by looking at the art.”

Luis with David Alfaro Siqueiros’s Self-Portrait (The Great Colonel) in the México 1900–1950 exhibition earlier this year

Words cannot express how grateful and thankful I am to work with this group and get to know the artists. Together, we’ve seen art come alive through our participants’ experience and interpretations. We’ve shared moments of joy and gratitude—such as when one of the artists, Luis, broke into applause in front of David Alfaro Siqueiros’s Self-Portrait (The Great Colonel), which was on view in the special exhibition México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde—and we’ve encouraged each other to take risks and try new styles and subject matter when we sketch in the galleries. We’ve celebrated graduations, new jobs, and a participant receiving a new set of dentures. We have even taken solace in the timeless beauty of the Keir Collection following the unexpected loss of a participant. Our experience illustrates that art is for everyone, and that studying art helps us understand the human experience and enriches our lives. Looking back, especially during the Thanksgiving season, on our time together sharing gallery discussions, art making, and an appreciation for art and each other’s company, I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to work with the amazing Stewpot artists.

Lindsay O’Connor is the Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs at the DMA.


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