A Weekend at the Big Lick

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This past weekend my friend from art school Gerry Bannan and his wife Betsy hosted a show of my paintings in their studio gallery in Roanoke, Virginia called BanG Studio. I have often heard that if you want to get anywhere in the art world (or any world for that matter) it is all about who you know. Well, let me tell you, if you are going to do anything concerning art in Roanoke you need to know Gerry and Betsy! Not only did I get the royal treatment and the honor of being the first painter to show at their new space, but I also got to witness power tool drag racing and a speech by former President Bill Clinton! The number one thing that I learned form the weekend is that Roanoke doesn’t suck!I’ll let you figure out why it was once called the Big Lick.

As I said Gerry and I go way back to undergraduates at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and we also traveled around Europe together in the summer of 1987. When I was at Tyler, I often wondered how I ended up in a school with so many fantastically talented people, and Gerry was surely one of them. See his works here. After we graduated from Tyler, Gerry went off to graduate school at the Pratt College of Art in NYC where he met Betsy, who is also a fantastically talented painter. See her works here. They married and eventually ended up in Roanoke, where Betsy’s family is from and have been there ever since. They recently moved their studio out of their house and into a formal studio space in downtown Roanoke.

This space is nothing but awesome! They use about half of it as a studio work space and the rest as a place to show art. I am honored to be the first painter to show work in their new space. This is especially good for me as I haven’t shown work in a gallery setting in about 25 years! Having over 30 of your paintings all in a row allows you to see and think about your work in ways that you otherwise can’t. The opening was great and well attended. I especially liked that mom and dad were able to come up and see it. It is nice to show them that my art school education is still working for me. I also want to thank all of Gerry and Betsy’s friends that came out to see it and made me fell like I was at home. What a wonderful art community you have there! I look forward to more visits in the future. Checkout photos of BanG Studio and the opening here.

The next day, Saturday, was one busy day. It started off with breakfast at Ernie’s with mom and dad in downtown Roanoke. We had planned to eat at Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles but they didn’t open until 9 AM. This was not good as we were hungry at 8 AM. Ernie’s it is. I’ll have to give Ernie’s the thumbs down as the grits that we ordered were instant grits. I could tell they were instant just by looking at them. It is a cardinal sin to serve instant grits south of the Mason Dixon Line! After breakfast we walked around the open market place and then mom and dad got on the road. I headed back to the Bannan house where we then promptly head off to the Power Tool Drag racing.

I must admit I was a little skeptical that these racers would race, or move forward in any significant way. On Thursday night we visited the workshop of Rob Humphrey the organizer and a racer in the event. Also there working away was Matt Ames, the race announcer and also a racer in the event. They tinkered away for a while and when they tested the Philosophy Inc. entry it didn’t move so well. I am happy to say that by race time all the bugs had been worked out of the system because these things moved like bullets! Check out the photos of the race here

After the racing Betsy, Gerry and I were feeling hungry. I made the point that it was after 9 AM and Thelma’s should be open. Gerry and Betsy mentioned that it was about the only place in Roanoke that they had never eaten. Decision made and we were off. Now, I have eaten lots of strange meals in my day but this was as simple as this; hashed potatoes with bacon (I’m also pretty sure the potatoes were cooked in all of the bacon fat), a big huge piece of fried chicken, and a Belgian waffle. Nothing green or remotely healthy, just southern comfort food at it’s best. It rocked!

It was my original plan to head back to West Chester at about this time, however, Betsy and Gerry somehow convinced former President Bill Clinton to come speak just blocks away from their house. How could I leave after all the trouble they went through to get him to come and speak to me? I couldn’t, so I stayed.

No matter what you think of Bill Clinton, he is one of the most iconic figures of our time and one of the greatest orators ever. And just incase any of you are unaware, I am a dyed to the polar fleece, union loving, latte sipping, progressive, liberal democrat. Needless to say I was very excited to see President Clinton. The event started at 7 PM and we got in line at 4, and it was worth it! He was as a dynamic speaker in person as he is on TV and we enjoyed every minute of it. Check out the photos of the event here.

Woo. What a weekend. Sunday I got up early and had a very uneventful drive back to West Chester.

Thanks Betsy and Gerry, and the rest of the Roanoke crowd for a wonderful weekend!