Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kandy Hale Maberry ’92 buys small historic church, renovates it and turns it into fine art gallery

When the former Church of Christ building in Graham, Texas, went up for sale three years ago, Kandy Hale Maberry ’92 saw an opportunity.

The circa 1885 church was on the small side, about 1,000 square feet, but had tons of potential.

“It was like this little jewel that just needed someone to polish it,” she said.

Maberry purchased the building and began the arduous renovation process – tearing down the false ceiling to reveal wooden beams, ripping out carpet to rediscover the old hardwood floors and exposing the original wood-paned windows.

In September, the building re-opened as Bellaford Fine Art Gallery, a modern art gallery and art teaching space named after Kandy’s two children, Isabelle, 9, and Ford, 6.

Maberry, who majored in art education, grew up in Graham she wanted to return to her hometown to raise her family. Once back home, she saw a need for a gallery to showcase contemporary artists.

She also saw an opportunity to finally realize a lifelong dream of teaching art to children. Her gallery includes an adjacent space where she holds hands-on classes, birthday parties and art camps.

So far, the reaction has been phenomenal, she said of the gallery, which can also be rented for special events.

“We’ve needed a space like this for a long time,” she said.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jeanette Alexander ’79 was at death's door. Returning to art, she found a miracle.

For Jeanette Alexander ’79 art nourishes the soul. “When I think about my life, I know my passion for painting serves as my salvation,” she says. “I put art on the backburner for 20 years. I know this void contributed to my illness.”

In 2001, doctors told Alexander she was at death’s door, her brain ravaged by cancerous tumors.

"This was my third bout with cancer. After months of suffering and near death by the treatments, I decided to take control—no more chemo and no more hospitals,” she says. “Whatever time I had left was going to be my own.”

In response, Alexander’s doctor recommended she start hospice care.

“About a month after stopping chemo, I started feeling stronger and returned to my studio,” she remembers. “I began a self-portrait. After painting awhile, I noticed the colors were bleak and somber. That’s when I decided I needed more color.”

Alexander likes to joke that she was “fired” by hospice a few months later because of what she and her doctor deem a miracle. “You can see my recovery in my art,” she says. “The pieces got more and more colorful as my healing took flight.” Alexander is now cancer-free.

Today, Alexander reflects on her life’s twists and turns and what led her back to her art.

She struggled as a single mother, raising four children, Michael, Mary Elizabeth, Amy and Jennifer. With trepidation, she enrolled in TCU’s art department, taking only one class her first semester. She found a welcoming spirit and hearty encouragement at the university, plunging into college with full semester loads and graduating summa cum laude.

She says she’s indebted to TCU and the art department for their support, as well as for the scholarships and various commissions that allowed her to simultaneously finish her degree and support her family.

When Alexander couldn’t find work as an art teacher after graduation, she sold dictation equipment to make ends meet.

Two years later, she entered the financial world at E.F. Hutton as a stockbroker. In the mid-1980s, Alexander pursued financial planning certification and eventually left the national brokerage companies to become an independent financial adviser.

In 1991, she forged a wealth management business serving retirees and soon-to-be retirees with her son, Michael. Together, they built their Fort Worth-based business, which continues today as Michael Dallas Wealth Management.

“For me, family and art have always been my motivation,” Alexander says. “Without them … who knows where I’d be. I’m blessed to be living my dream.”

On the Web:

To learn more about Alexander’s recovery, which was featured on the Veria Channel’s “The Art of Living,” visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEF2WAhl9tI or check out her site at http://www.jeanettealexander.com/.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lisa Deeley Smith '77 lending a hand in Sudan

In 2002, Lisa Deeley Smith ’77 was a church secretary putting up a notice on a Boston-area church bulletin board asking people to provide foster homes for some of the Lost Boys of Sudan.

“At first I thought, ‘Who would do this? Who would let those guys, who have been through God knows what, into their home?’ ”

The Lost Boys, as they became known to aid organizations, were the more than 27,000 boys orphaned or displaced by the Second Sudanese War, which lasted from 1983 until 2005. Some 4,000 were taken in by families in the United States.

Despite her reservations, Smith went to the meeting, then answered her own question: “I will. I will take one of these boys into my home." Seven years later, her Sudanese foster son still lives with her family in their home outside Boston.

But that was only the beginning of Smith’s involvement with Sudan: As a board member for the aid organization Village Help for South Sudan, Smith is now helping the people in Wunlang, a remote village of about 400 families that some of the Lost Boys came from.

The group’s first task: Dig a well. “We had funds collected to build a school but you can’t make bricks without water, and they didn’t have a well,” Smith said. The now-completed school has four classroom blocks, a teacher’s office with a storeroom attached and three latrines. Today it educates nearly 500 students who come from a score of surrounding villages. It is staffed by teachers from the village’s former “school under a tree.” A second school is being planned.

Village Help for South Sudan, organized in 2006, only has a handful of volunteers, but they’ve accomplished plenty — next on their list is a clinic (the bricks are already made) that will provide triage, first aid and transportation to a doctor’s office (a day-and-a-half walk away) and the nearest hospital, which is a two-hour drive away (on a good day).

The group is also helping other aid groups, training them how to run a project and advising them on the challenges of working in remote areas.

“We also have two Lost Boys who went to college and are now program directors with us,” she said. “They are there now, helping neighboring villages."

Smith, who is a substitute teacher and works at a shop that sells fair-trade, ethnic merchandise, has visited the region once and plans to do so again this year. While there, she will to scout out sources of building materials, assess and train teachers, help with international banking and meet local leaders.

Email Lisa Deeley Smith at lisa.deeleysmith@villagehelpforsouthsudan.org.