Thanks For The Light

November 9th, 2017

This week, I’m saying thanks for one of this city’s true originals as its time is passing.  I’m also asking for us to realize that this is a beginning as much as an ending.

Next week, we’ll talk more about that.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, November 10, 2017, and in The Memphis News, November 11-27, 2017

Memphis College Of Art


Thanksgiving is coming up so I’d like to give some to an old friend.

Like many old friends, this one has been there my whole life and has meant more to me than I’ve said. More talented is this old friend, but sharing of that talent and inspirational in the sharing, and patient in the teaching of those less talented.

Like many old friends, this one has made an indelible mark on this city and that too has gone if not unnoticed, largely unsaid or not said enough. This friend’s time is all but past, but the love I have for the passion I saw in this friend and the product of that passion, and the transformative, timeless nature of it remain, will always remain, will always surprise, will always challenge, will always comfort.

This friend has left me breathless since I was a boy and lit something in me that burns still, a creative spark that lights my way.

So thank you, old friend.

For the smell of linseed oil and wet clay and creation. For pieces of wood and stone and glass and paper and metal and form and promise. For the journey of light across a day and into shadow and through a mind and over paper and canvas. For tubes oozing color with colorful names, and palettes of it, and pencils and ink of it, and pastels of it, and thick oils and acrylics and ghostly watercolors and imagination.

For all of that on drop cloths and in dust from chisels and blades and bleeding out in buckets of brushes. For all of that through tall windows in soaring spaces. For all of that in a forest older than any in the city in a building newer in every way than any I’d ever seen in a time that would help define how I see everything.

And thanks for doing that for my momma who would introduce us. And for my kids who I would introduce to you. And for my city who you would introduce to all of that over generations. Some would earn degrees. Some would become famous. Some would return and teach. Some would just come Saturday mornings. All would gain.

Art is never fully supported in the way that it supports, never fully understood in the way that it understands, but its value is beyond measure and its absence is a particular kind of emptiness, a darker darkness.

Thank you, Memphis College of Art. Thank you for the light.

Perhaps we won’t know how cool it is to have a college of art at your city’s heart until it’s gone, how blank a civic wall can be without its own creations displayed. Perhaps we won’t know what architect Roy Harrover gave us in the building itself until it stands empty, the light catching only dust.

Perhaps, but we can create something else here – something painted anew on this canvas – pentimento of an old friend.

I’m a Memphian, and let’s begin again.


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