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Artist makes most of “gift of time” at Horlock House

July 24, 2019 - 18:00
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    Examiner photo by Connie Clements Navasota Artist in Residence Rebecca Dias says abstract acrylic on canvas defines her core as an artist. Her watercolor work tends to be more “realistic” and provides a break from the abstract.

Artist and Arizona native Rebecca Dias has combined her passion for art with her business sense to develop her creative side. Dias is enjoying an extended stay in Navasota through the collaborative efforts of the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley (ACBV) and the City of Navasota’s Artist in Residence in Program. The AIR program is in its sixth year of providing artists a place to create and sell their work and is funded by hotel/ motel occupancy tax.

Dias’ passion for art began in middle school, perhaps inherited from her Swedish grandmother, a watercolor artist.

She said, “She loved to paint the flower fields in Lompoc Valley in the Santa Barbara area, so I always think of her when I paint watercolors.”

Dias was accepted to several art schools for undergraduates but was urged to get a liberal arts degree and acquire skills that would allow her to have her own art business later.

She said, “I just didn’t know if I was ready for the fine arts path at that age.”

Dias graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from Scripps College in Claremont, California, and is working on her Master of Arts in Business Design and Arts Leadership. She taught art and had a career in marketing but the desire to paint remained.

Dias said, “I wanted to grow more with my own (art) and see how these experiences and interests I have could come together.”

Her business and marketing experience would prove helpful building her website and networking.

She said, “Learning how to use those platforms to communicate even a personal brand as an artist is a useful skill.”

ACBV flexibility

Dias’ medium is acrylic on canvas, primarily abstract art but she hasn’t limited her herself. Dias has partnered with a Canadian guidance counselor to provide illustrations for a book for girls ages 8-12 about emotional health, called “Mindful Moments, a Guidebook and Journal for Girls.” She has another work in progress for a client in Los Angeles.

Dias joked, “So, I’m going from Rodeo Drive to rodeos in Texas with my artwork.”

Dias has been a familiar face at local events like the Texas Birthday Bash, the Wine Walk and Washington-on-the-Brazos farmers’ market and participated in fundraisers in Bryan-College Station like the Voices for Children Art Show and the ACBV’s Boots and BBQ.

Dias said the ACBV has been flexible with the program, giving the artists autonomy to focus on projects of interest to them. That flexibility allowed Dias and fellow AIR Apinya Srikhwanthong to participate at Round Top, an experience Dias described as a “totally different market and exposure,” and said, “I’m grateful for their support.”

The 4141 experience

Back home when Dias announced she was going to Navasota, Texas, she received questioning looks. That changed Dec. 6 when Navasota’s participation in honoring the passing of President George Bush became front page news.

She said, “It was remarkable! My sister works for The New York Times and we had a really special connection because of that event because Navasota made the front page of The New York Times.”

She continued, “It was really special to be here for an occasion that meant so much to the community and to the world. I think the solemnity and the collective honor that was experienced in that moment was very powerful for everyone who was able to be present at the occasion.”

Dias said she has been honored to collaborate with Apinya and work independently on creative works “to provide some sort of record and memory” for those who experienced the event.

Small town,

big impression

Navasota may be the smallest town Dias has ever lived in, but it’s made a big impression.

She said, “I’m surprised at this stage of my life how I really enjoy a quieter, low key place. Navasota is charming. The people we’ve met are so welcoming and supportive. There’s a lot of heart here. There’s a lot of hard work. I love seeing people so connected to the land.”

Dias continued, “Living in a city you get very detached from the sources of where things come from. I think that aspect of Navasota has been inspiring and refreshing.”

Rodeos are part of Arizona culture so it’s not surprising that Dias captured that life on canvas, but she said, “I think the initial series was a way for me to connect and open my mind to an important aspect of many people’s lives here.”

Gift of time

Dias’ advice for artists of all ages pondering a residency - “Do it!”

She acknowledged the starving artist stereotype caused some concerns, but she learned from other artists that “it doesn’t have to be that way.”

She said, “For me it felt like a risk and maybe that’s because I’m not just out of college in my 20s. I didn’t have a lot of artist friends and connections and I don’t have an MFA or BFA. In a lot of ways, I felt inadequate for this experience.”

She continued, “The residency is really a gift of time, a resource and a place where you don’t have the other pressures and distractions, even financially, so you can focus on your art. But at the same time, I have a long way to go to get the place I’d like to be one day.”

As for those fears that hold people back, Dias said, “I think that for anyone, any age who has a desire to do art or try something new, whatever the margin of risk is, try it and be willing to take that courageous step and trust where it takes you.”

August open house

The Navasota Artists in Residence will host an Open House, Saturday, Aug. 3, from 2-4 p.m. at the Horlock House Art Gallery and History Museum, 1215 E. Washington in Navasota. The gallery is open to the public Wednesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. -6 p.m. and admission is free.