Sienna and I had visited the Martin Luther King Historic Site and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta for back in February. While we were there we picked up this inspiring set of graphic novels by Congressman John Lewis:
March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
Winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
An inside story of the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of one of its most iconic figures, Congressman John Lewis.
Sienna read all three books before we even made it home, and she’s reread them so many times I knew we had to make it to Selma, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Montgomery and any other place we could stop along the way. My plan in Selma was to walk across the bridge and hopefully to see some art by Charlie Lucas.
I don’t like to make too many plans in advance because I like to let life just happen to us on our road trips and that exactly what happened on this trip. As we drove toward Selma at dusk one night I still didn’t know where exactly we were going to stay. I got onto Instagram and looked up the only hashtag that made sense: #selmaalabama and I kept coming across this one account, AC Reeves, that was posting about the Woolworth Lofts that had been recently renovated as Airbnbs. I contacted AC about staying the night, and she just happened to have availability, but we also immediately hit it off as two passionate artists. I was floored when she asked if I’d meet her in the morning so she could take me to visit her studio, Charlie Lucas’s studio and her mother Anne Strand’s studio. I mean….what?!!!
Charlie Lucas, Tin Man
AC only had an hour the next morning so we quickly made the rounds to her studio a few streets over (I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos!). Then we visited Charlie Lucas’s studio and he greeted us at the door with his dog TT. We toured the studio and I was just in awe of everything. Charlie and AC discussing what artists discuss:
An hour or so later I returned to the studio with Brett and Sienna:
TT followed Sienna around the whole time as we looked at art:
And then they just settled down to discuss what girls and dogs discuss:
What a sweet soul:
I didn’t want to leave without a piece of Charlie’s art. We picked out this piece called Key to the World:
I asked Charlie if he could sign his book for us and he sat down at the table and proceeded to draw all sorts of pictures in the book with a Sharpie…and as he did he told story after story:
Sienna was really taken with the Tin Man. She’ll never forget the few hours we spent with him. So of course we definitely have to go back sooner rather than later.
I love this pic so much. Charlie likes dogs. And dogs like him. And we like dogs. So naturally we are just all great friends now.
My favorite thing about meeting Charlie is his smile and his laugh. I find myself flipping through his book often because of all the honest wisdom in his words about being an artist. This passage below is one of my favorites and the first time I read it I almost started crying…but then laughing all at the same time because it’s all so, so true:
“See, the things people don’t understand about an artist, when the idea come in his head, it faces many other ideas. So the thing is, is to take that one out of the way. That way, the rest of ’em don’t jump on it and go to fighting with it. And then that way you can keep it separated. That’s the discipline within yourself. You got to make sure yourself is disciplined to realize BOOM! I got to take this out right now.
And then the next one come in there, he ain’t got no room to be arguing with this one over here. Because you done already took him out of the way anyway.
And then that way, it’s more pressure, it’s more stronger and have more reasons to you. And it don’t mess your mind up.
Art will actually run you crazy if you don’t understand the rhythm in it. The more you learn about it, the more education – it expands you more out. It ain’t like it slows you down, it expands you more out. Every time I see something different, I’m expanded.
I know how to produce things but I don’t know hot to actually keep up with them.
I can put things in my head and take them out of my head, but I don’t have no concept how to keep hp with them.
You only get that flash moment of it and then something else moves right in its place.
It’s like walking up to the river watching the water flow by you and you can’t just reach in there, say “I’m gonna get this section of water and put it back in the river,” and then walk down the river ten miles and find that piece of water. You can never do that. It’s never the same. It still will be water but it will never be the same.
All of this is telling me that my mind is free. And it takes a lot to keep your mind free.”
The Bridge Tender’s House
Another surprise adventure in Selma was visiting artist Anne Strand in her studio which also happens to be the historic Bridge Tender’s House. It’s that cute little yellow cottage sitting on the edge of the Alabama river:
The house was built in 1884 and the old bridge used to pass right next to it. The bridge tender would open the bridge when needed and also collect tolls. In 1940, this bridge was replaced with the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Anne Strand happens to be AC’s mother and when we stopped by to meet her early in the morning I overheard a conversation that Anne needed some art brought over from the lofts for an upcoming show and I volunteered to do it…I mean really, I would have opted for nothing else in the day! I brought Brett and Sienna back with me and we got the full cottage tour. I could have moved right in! Those stairs…..
So many vignettes of awesome things around:
Part of the art studio:
The entire house is filled with Anne’s work as well as the best collections of antiques and finds:
The plates and the baskets! I could barely contain myself.
I love this beautiful floral painting by Anne:
I mean I was trying to act normal but it was a little impossible to not try and peek into every nook and cranny:
You know you want to see more and read more about this place…and you can! It was featured in the The Cottage Journal a few years ago. Read the article here.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge
Our afternoon in Selma was spent walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and at the Interpretative Center. We walked silently across, taking in the significance of the site of 1965’s Bloody Sunday and March to Montgomery:
It was important for us to visit the ground zero of the fight for voting rights, and the beginning of the historic march to Montgomery:
There’s a great site for the entire U.S Civil Rights Trail that gives history and landmarks in 14 states that were part of the Civil Rights Movement. You can click here or click the image below:
The Woolworth Lofts
I have to show you where we stayed! The Woolworth Lofts. Here’s what the old Selma Drug Store looked like around 1908 when it was built.
In the 1930s the owners wanted to recruit Woolworth’s so they changed the facade:
Here’s the inside before it was renovated:
And now it’s been renovated and the inside is so cute! Our welcome sign from AC:
One of the lofts…hanging on the wall are original ceiling tins from the building before renovation:
I just loved every little touch…the artwork:
The old quilts:
Collections on the walls:
So many cute details everywhere I looked:
We’ll remember our trip to Selma forever and I want to go back soon. It was funny, as we were leaving, we took a backroad and there was this guy sitting in the middle of the road but for as far as I could see there was no roadwork being done…and we were the only car in sight. We sat there for a few minutes before I wondered if we were on one of those “What Would You Do?” episodes. I finally got out to talk to this guy for a little bit and he assured me there actually WAS roadwork being done a few miles up the road on a bridge. I think we were supposed to just sit there for a while and reflect on our stay a little longer.
Here’s a link to Charlie’s book:
“Charlie Lucas is a self-taught artist. Although he has made art since childhood, only since a debilitating accident in 1984 did Lucas turn to art seriously as a form of personal expression. He has since become recognized nationally and internationally as a great innovator in the field of American folk art.
From his workshop in Pink Lily, Alabama–a rural wonderland of objects, sculptures, paintings, buildings, and installations–Charlie Lucas makes his art from materials that others have discarded (as he himself believes he was once discarded): old tin, bicycle wheels, shovels, car mufflers, tractor seats, metal banding, wire, and gears. His work is visionary, in every sense of the word, each creation the result of an intense communion with his heritage, ancestors, race, family, and his own choices in life. Every work is imbued with a story.
With more than 200 vivid color photographs–of the artist at work, his studio environments, and his finished creations–Tin Man presents Lucas through his own words and stories–his troubled and impoverished childhood, his self-awakening to the depths of his own artistic vision, his perseverance through years of derision and misapprehension, and the salvation that has come through international acclaim and recognition, love of family, and his role as a teacher of children.”
Thank you AC Reeves, Charlie Lucas, Anne Strand and Selma, Alabama.