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Art & Culture
Auld Lang Syne
lessons learned from this profession
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|Published in the Columbia Daily Tribune 28 August 2005|
Farewell, BettyWe all make mistakes. It's just part of living, growing, and being human. I try to learn from the mistakes I make, and I try to keep my karma clean in my relationships with people by acknowledging my mistakes and correcting them when I can.
Which is why I feel shame for the way I treated Betty Robins the last time I saw her. She deserved better.
You might've seen her obituary in last Monday's Tribune. Betty, you probably know, was one of the real art assets in our community. The sort of person who was always there for openings, encouraging artists at every turn, giving a kind word and trying to make sure that those who deserved it got recognition for supporting and promoting the arts.
While I was literally still in diapers (and my beard has more grey in it than I like to admit), she was the founding president of the Columbia Art League. Word is that the Art League started as informal meetings in her garage. I can believe that. Betty was a force to be reckoned with, even in her later years when I came to know her. She wouldn't hesitate to do anything she thought beneficial to the arts. She was largely responsible for starting the Art League's annual show "Art in the Park." I know she worked hard to establish the show not just in the community, but among the community of artists in the Midwest. At first it was a struggle for acceptance and legitimacy, but Betty and the others then involved in the Art League persevered, in an attempt to bring art before the public. Now "Art in the Park" is one of the major cultural affairs on the calendar, and thousands attend, bringing the whole family to enjoy art and celebrate creativity.
When we opened Legacy Art, Betty was one of the first people to venture in, to take my hand and wish me well. I learned later that she had her own shop selling art and antiques in Downtown during the 70's and 80's, and knew full well what we were facing with opening our gallery. Likewise, she came to us for framing, and was a patron who helped keep us going. Even when her health started to decline, it wasn't unusual for her to come in to see a new show, to be there for an opening reception.
Sometime in the last year we were in business, I had something of a falling out with Betty. I don't remember what the specifics were any longer, and I suppose that it doesn't matter. I do know that I should have known better, been a little more kind in my dealings with her, whatever happened. Gentleness is always best when dealing with an older customer, and I didn't extend her that courtesy. She had earned the right to my respect, and for a moment I forgot that.
Betty, I'm sorry. Know that you will be sorely missed in our community. Also know that your efforts were not in vain. The Art League continues to struggle, but it endures. Your vision, your leadership, your hard work and dedication paid off.
Thank you, and farewell.
I also want to say thanks to all those who responded to my last column, and sent birthday wishes and financial support to Naoma Powell at Access Arts. As Betty Robins' passing reminds us, it is always best to tell people how much you appreciate them while they're around to hear it.
all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
photos © Martha K. John, 1994-present
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