When it’s time to swap or pick up new art, I regularly meet artists half way between Tupelo and their home to help reduce time away from their studio. Since so many artists live in central and southern portions of the state, it really takes up a lot of the day or more to travel to our corner of Mississippi. Usually, if they are from Jackson we meet at a fast food place in Winona, just off Interstate 55. We will make a quick swap in the middle of parking lot with many strange looks from other travelers who are stopping for a quick bite to eat. We each head back home within 15 minutes, with a brief exchange of words about how our lives were going.
Last week, I made plans to meet Ellen Langford at our usual spot in Winona. The day before we planned to meet, Ellen asked if we could meet in Grenada instead, at Robin Whitfield’s studio, about the same distance away from Tupelo as was Winona. I immediately agreed, since I have been wanting to see Robin’s studio. Presently, Robin is our only artist living in the delta region of Mississippi. After living in Tupelo for over 30 years, I have only been to the delta region 3 or 4 times, if that much. My GPS directed me through the scenic route around Grenada Lake and into town from the back roads instead of the interstate. What a great treat! I was able to travel over the swamp areas Robin portrays in her paintings. I saw the cypress knees that occur regularly in her paintings as well as the basis of her color schemes.
As I drove into Grenada, I made my way around the town square typical of so many small towns in Mississippi. I parked in front Robin’s studio/home as she was unloading supplies from a weekend art festival into a beautiful old building. She has lived in Grenada for 15 years and her investment has begun to pay off. All the old buildings around her are finally beginning to be restored. Citizens are retreating back to small towns and trying to recapture the slow paced life they escaped so many years ago.
Inside, I was so taken by the charm and inspiration Robin works and lives in every day. She creates watercolors with every detail in mind, from the specific paper used, to the natural elements in the artwork, to the frames she meticulously makes herself. If that wasn’t enough, Ellen and her studio assistant showed up with a cooler of food they had brought to prepare lunch. I was so shocked I don’t even think I said thank you or complimented them on how delicious it all was. A spontaneous picnic lunch in the back kitchen of Robin’s studio: INCREDIBLE!!
As the fall season kicks into high gear, I truly want to remember that special time of slow paced, small town life. I can’t control the activities around me, but I can control my reaction to it. I hope I can strive to take one moment at a time. I want to have long conversations with my husband and young adult children; help my father with the community garden project in downtown Tupelo he’s so passionate about; sit around the table with friends long after the plates are cleared after dinner. Small town life creates opportunities for us to get to know each other on a deeper level, but it takes an investment in time. I hope I can make that investment in time and not be distracted by the white noise around me.
- Kim Caron