I don't regret going, because as a person who dropped out of college to go to Taos, New Mexico to be an artist, seeing his studio was absolutely worth it. Items around the rooms were set together as if they too were waiting to be selected to be in a painting, a drawing, a lithograph and in those ways to become famous or endless, forever remembered, frozen somewhere on someone's wall.
My brother, Clark Frayser and countless others walked those steps many more times but of course no one more so than the artist himself.
Monday afternoon I attended the 100th birthday celebration for Charles Banks Wilson held in Kah-Ne Hall in his namesake Art and Cultural Education Center. We were surrounded by his art on the walls in the permanent exhibit, but also with items brought from private collections for the event. That was why I was there, to show our original drawing. Woven in that open space were images of Nick Calcagno, who followed Wilson as an art instructor at the college for a number of years. Nick sculpted a bust of Charles Banks and it sat looking at me during the respectful celebration. Behind me was the etched glass image of the Eagle-Picher Central Mill Nick had done and that LEAD Agency has available in frame-able prints.
In my later years at Miami High School and Will Rogers, service learning caught on fire. Students ran with it individually and teachers integrated service into their curriculum. Many got involved in the Tar Creek Project. Teachers who were on the edge of retirement learned to love teaching again. One English teacher, Judy David and her students did remarkable projects. Many of these students and others did service outside the school day, too. They visited nursing homes, picked up litter, etc. for no recognition, no grade in school, just did the projects because they felt good about themselves afterward. Mrs. David's brother Carlos learned about those kids and sponsored pizza parties for the group near Christmas time. I never learned if he had had children, but I did learn more about him through those visits. He had been a railroad engineer and during his tenure a child was run over by his train, Ultimately he longed to do more for children of any age, and he found us through his sister's work.
After I retired and we had established LEAD Agency, I received a call from Jerry Cobb, who owned the Frame Shop downtown saying he had a couple of framed pictures for me to pick up. When I arrived he showed the gifts and told me who had purchased them for us. He explained the donor had wanted us to sell the items so we would be able to use those funds to do projects with children, and he wanted to find a way to help fund us into the future. We have never sold either, because Mr. Cobb advised us to wait, hold on to the items, assuring us their value would increase, time would be on our side.
Both were bequeathed to LEAD Agency. I have lost touch with both Judy David and her brother. But on our office wall are Carlos' gifts. One a prized print of Eva and one an original drawing that has ended up so very often as a teaching tool. Called the "Roof Trimmers" it depicts the deep mining operation performed by a singular man on a long extension ladder held together with ropes and by ropes his team of miners held tight in that cavern as the man on the ladder used a pry bar to remove rocks containing lead and zinc from the roof of the mine. Another team below would shine the light to illuminate the work. All hoped when the rocks fell from the roof they would survive the day. It must have felt like an overdressed circus act performed for the tiny crowd below witnessing it. And Charles Banks Wilson illustrated all of that in that small drawing back in the day, probably for the newspaper since a photo taken in that huge cavern could at that time never be able to capture the action and the brave men who worked below. The question I would have liked to have asked, "What was it like to see that?"
LEAD Agency continues with our Youth Activists Trainings and will be announcing our upcoming art contest for youth. What we have done for 20 years is to encourage our youth to have a voice and with it and their art to say something about their own environment, where they live and what they want better. The legacy of this place was felt this week in Kah-Ne Hall, art that lasts, images that preserve the past.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim