By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
Dogs howled, and the floor was stained from oil leaks.
That's how it was in the beginning for the Salado Village Artists. Not having a place of their own, they met where they could - in a car garage that had a pair of Dobermans as mascots, in gas stations and in members' homes.
But that was in 1983 when the club was planting its roots. These days, as the club celebrates its 25th anniversary, the Salado artists meet in the refurbished schoolhouse behind the Salado Civic Center.
'Getting the building, that's something we're real proud of,' said Andy Phair, club founder.
Dedicated to the Salado Village Artists in 1994, the barn-like building had once served as a storeroom for the old Salado High School. Dick Goodman of Salado rebuilt the interior with donations from local supporters of the arts.
'But the most important thing to celebrate is that because of us, Salado has an art club,' Ms. Phair said. 'It wasn't like that when I moved here. I came from Austin where I was a member of two art clubs, and when I got here, I was sorely disappointed to find out that there wasn't a single one.'
So the painter searched the town for other virtuosos. She was pleased to learn that Salado was home to several creative people, more than enough to justify the formation of an art club.
'We've had stitchers, actors, painters, sketch artists and sculptors come through here,' Ms. Phair said. 'A lot of talent.'
Friendship and fun quickly became the perks of being a Salado Village Artist.
'We eat and we laugh. It's a ball,' said Judy Beisel, club president. 'We also go on trips.'
Along with Ms. Phair and Joan Hoffman, Ms. Beisel was flipping through the club's scrapbook. It had pictures of party after party where the artists were munching on hors d'oeuvres, eating a formal dinner or participating in costume contests. Excited about the club's Sept. 19 anniversary party, the ladies were reminiscing about old times.
'Gee, I wonder why there are so many pictures of my house,' Ms. Phair said. 'I guess it's because I had the biggest living room.'
Between the art and comradery, the club's 30 members try to use their talents for the good of their community.
'We've done the cover of the Salado phone book for years,' Ms. Beisel said.
Salado Village Artists are also responsible for several of the advertising posters for Salado's annual Christmas Stroll, Art in the Park and the Wildflower Art Show.
'They're a great group to work with,' said Suzi Epps, executive director of the Salado Chamber of Commerce. 'The two submissions we have received for the Christmas Stroll are fabulous and very creative.'
One of the club's ongoing projects is to support the Lighthouse Guild, a non-profit group dedicated to the protection and empowerment of abused women and children.
'The stitchers make duffel bags for them,' Ms. Beisel said. 'They leave their homes in a hurry and once they're at the shelters, they don't have anything to carry their clothes in.'
Project Linus is another project of the club's seamstresses. They routinely make quilts to send to Linus headquarters, to be distributed to ill and traumatized babies and children in need.
The painters and sketch artists focus their efforts on continued learning for themselves and the public.
'We've had famous artists come in and do programs,' Ms. Phair said. 'They teach various techniques and projects.'
In the past 25 years, the club has hosted a slew of guest artists. They include oil painters Garnet Bucter and Grey Morrell; acrylic artist Bill Jaxon; and watercolor experts Judi Betts, Ken Hosmer, Walt Davis and Diane Maxey.
But the group's education efforts are not focused entirely upon adults. The club judges the Salado school district's annual art contest and awards the winners with art supplies.
The Salado Village Artists have also provided a venue for homeschooled children to study art.
'The ones who come in usually stick with us,' Ms. Phair said. 'They claim us as their grandmothers.'