Do you remember how our cool, wet spring went on and on so sweetly in our small town? Now, suddenly, summer is insistently moving in hot and steamy. Yes, Missouri is definitely heating up.
To beat the Saturday heat we knew was coming with the rising sun, my husband, David, and I started out early to give our Aussie her training walk around Central Park. This takes a while, with lots of repetition practiced at every street crossing, as we focus on teaching her in French while she walks “au pied” (at heel) and learns her directions at every intersection looking “a droite” (to the right), “a gauche” (to the left), and “allez-allez!” (go ahead).
Getting halfway around the park one morning, we veered off course and passed the library gardens and the police station to check the artCentral box at the post office. Continuing, we made the corner onto the historic Carthage Square. After buying tomatoes and beets from Tammy Wilson at the farmers market, we lingered at the windows of the Big Dog Boutique before stopping for cappuccinos and pastries at Mother Road Coffee, where we sat out front with our puppy.
As often happens at MRC, we met and had a delightful conversation with out-of-town visitors. A couple from the Kansas City area was passing through Carthage on a weekend getaway. They had found very affordable lodging at the Crossroads Loft, an 1880s loft recently renovated.
We told our new acquaintances of some of the nearby great art in our small town, such as Judith Fowler’s pop-up exhibition on the other side of the courthouse and the stunning interior of Lillian James, the upscale salon and spa conceived by owner Becky Andrews with artful multimedia assemblages by our late and famous artist Larry Glaze. We encouraged them to seek out Koral Martin’s colorful nature photography in her KOKA Art Gallery on Main Street just past The Palms Massage and Day Spa, the Maple Leaf Music Company and Spellbound Boutique. We urged them to visit Cherry’s Art Emporium to see the works of local artist heroes, including Lowell Davis, Jerry Ellis, Andy Thomas and Bob Tommey. Of course, we shared our enthusiasm for artCentral’s summer happenings — artCamp and our annual Membership Exhibition. By the time our new friends departed, they were sold on Carthage as a haven filled with art and artists.
Our extended morning outing thoroughly enjoyed with Lasyrenn, we practiced street corner training all the way back home, where we finished prepping an artCentral mailing just in time to make the last Saturday afternoon mail pickup. Then off we went to meet up with our friends Kerry and Bev for a much anticipated afternoon art party — Art by the Spring at historic Cox Spring hosted by artist April Davis-Brunner in the amazing, art-filled home she’s created with her husband, Larry, nestled in their serenely forested acreage.
Leaving our car beneath shade trees, we passed between two stone stanchions adorned with a plaque reading “Cox Spring, Established 1842” and topped with two silhouetted black buzzards. Created by April’s dad Lowell Davis and assisted by Jason Vickers, these watchful greeters perched on large wooden limbs before a metal disc of a golden full moon.
Cox Spring was settled by John Cox, the founder of Joplin. His name is inscribed on a limestone ledge above the spring which was a regular stop to provide water to both passengers and animals on the Butterfield Stagecoach Lines in the late 1800s. The ruts from the stagecoach trail are still visible in the yard west of the spring which is said to have been used during the Civil War for encampments and as a water source. In the early 1900s, the spring was a popular place for church picnics and family gatherings.
We imagined we could almost catch snippets of laughter from past good times echoing off the bluff and bubbling down the meandering waterway. Hearing the sweet real-time notes of stringed instruments and singing voices, we were delighted with the offerings of guest musicians including Taylor Jones, Alex Williams and Jeremiah Jones positioned knee deep among lavender blooming hostas. While beautiful notes wafted about us, we wandered through the art-filled tents set beside the brook, where white ducks waddled on the colorfully flowered banks and fishes lazily swam just beneath the clear surface.
Sampling the abundance of palate-pleasing beans and cornbread and fragrant muffins and brownies, we toured the main house and April’s Art House, where she makes her art and teaches lessons. Her artistic creations were everywhere, available for pleasurable looking and for purchase too.
What a splendidly artful, steamy summer Saturday from beginning to ending with our driving the winding backroads carrying us home to Carthage and our old house filled top to bottom and inside and out with art that moves our hearts in every season in our small town.
Alice Lynn Greenwood-Mathe is the executive director-curator of artCentral at the Hyde House in Carthage.