CARBONDALE — Children in I Can Read! recieved a visit from a special guest, artist Frank Brown. The visit was part of the E.T. (Extra Talented) Come Home program of Carbondale Community Arts that featured the work of four extrodinary teaching artists.
Nancy Stemper of CCA gave the children some details about the program.
“One of the things we are doing this fall is to bring back some of the artists who have left the area,” she said.
Brown lived in Carbondale as a child, then returned to graduate from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with an art degree.
“We’ll see some amazing artwork and he will tell some amazing stories,” Stemper continued.
Brown told the children he began sculpting at about four years old using the wax from Kool Aid Sticks. As he improved, he bought clay from the Ben Franklin store in Carbondale. He used to play with the clay to keep from falling asleep during services at Rock Hill Baptist Church.
“I used to make everything I saw in the Bible, all the figures over and over,” Brown said.
Brown showed slides of his artwork. Many of the pieces have themes of struggle and oppression. “It was very hard for people to have liberty,” he said. “When you starve a child of opportunity, you starve him mentally and physically.”
Brown showed slides of many of his pieces and told the children about the motifs in the work, as well as where the pieces are displayed. His latest work is a large sculpture that is in a park in Sarasota, Fla. Brown’s artwork is in museums round the country.
He also encouraged the children to work at their dreams because it takes hard work to be a success. He told to succeed they need patience, persistence, perserverence and prayer.
“We have to work with each other to move a community forward,” Brown said.
He also challenged the children to learn five words with 13 letters each.
Dr. Ella Lacy told the children that she and Brown lived next door to each other in “the projects.”
“It’s not about where you come from, but it’s what you do with what you have,” Lacy said.
For Brown, the visit was a homecoming. His first public work of art hangs in the Eurma Hayes Center, where I Can Read! meets. He explained the piece, called “The Closest Thing to Life is Death,” several adults before talking to the students.