Artifice asked assorted members of the Mobile cultural community for their favorite “arts-related Christmas memories.” No other parameters were given. What follows are some of their responses.
Artist and instructor Rene Culler:
Although I am a visual artist, what I consider my first exposure to pure beauty was a concert I attended in the fourth grade with my elementary school. We went to Severance Hall to hear the Cleveland Orchestra perform a program that included music from Tchaikovsky’s imaginative “Nutcracker Suite.”
Sitting in the hall was like being in heaven and even more beautiful than a church with gilded designs on the walls and ceilings inspired by the embroidery of Mrs. Severance’s wedding dress. We sat in blue velvet chairs, and the musicians on stage actually knew how to play their fancy instruments! I felt like I was floating on cloud nine as it all was so very special.
Alabama Contemporary Art Center Executive Director Amanda Solley:
One of my favorite parts of the holidays is creating personalized gift wrap for gifts to my loved ones. Sometimes I will create a stamp with imagery that reminds me of the recipient and create patterns on unique paper, maybe a page from an old book that tells a story they would love or placing the gift inside a container that is a treasure in itself. Tying a ribbon in their favorite color around a personalized gift box, then securing a talisman to the center of that bow is the ultimate way — to me — to show that person that they are in my thoughts until the gift leaves my hands.
Also, my husband tries his hand at drawing a picture on a card for me every year and I love seeing his new ideas each year.
Mobile Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Celia Mann Baehr:
My mother bought wooden Christmas tree ornaments you painted with a paint-by-number system. My mother, brother and I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning painting them. We continued that tradition even through our college years.
I grew up in a small town in Madison County. Almost everyone I knew owned some sort of a piano, even if it was an out-of-tune, ragtag instrument, though in today’s world pianos are a rare find in the average home.
My dad’s family had seven children and they all loved to tell stories and argue about politics and football. However, there was always a break in the storytelling so that everyone could gather around the piano to sing Christmas carols. My grandmother played by ear and knew every carol and every old-time gospel song I have ever heard. My dad never cared for the ornament painting, but he never missed the singing of the Christmas carols. I remember those times and miss them.
Artist and art instructor Rachel Wright:
My family has a long history of giving handmade gifts; one of my cherished objects as a girl was a doll my mom made that had long pigtails and blue eyes, like me. Mom also made us matching outfits, and she did the same for my sister. I still have the doll. Sarah is her name.
[Husband and artist] Tony and I frequently give things we’ve made as gifts, to each other, as well as to family, especially when we had more time than money. That can have its negative side though — walking into my mom’s house, I cringe at some of the objects I’ve made when I was less skilled. I have offered to replace some of those things with better crafted ones.
Another holiday memory occurs to me: We used to visit our friends the Bennetts over the holidays and the adults would collaborate and put on an old-time radio show. Then the kids would write and perform our own musical variety show to the accompaniment of drunken, good-natured heckling from the parents.
This was long before video was common, but our friends had a video camera and would record the revelries. Then one year, Larry Bennett edited a video with voiceover narration about my family, entitled “The Traveling Odells.” It captured some of those performances, as well as sundry other home movie footage.
Since then, Larry and my father have passed away, but we still have them captured in those videos, with all the love and joy and downright silliness of that time of my childhood. I am so grateful and writing about this has brought me to tears.
More responses will appear in Lagniappe’s Christmas Day issue.
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