By Lauren Cabral
Killeen Daily Herald
A considerable volume of artistic and literary talent was packed into the Killeen Civic and Conference Center Saturday for the Take 190 West Arts Festival, the culmination of Killeen's weeklong salute to the arts.
Thirty-seven authors and illustrators, eight sculptors and 21 artists shared their work at the event, which was hosted by the city of Killeen, the Killeen Independent School District, the Killeen Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Killeen Libraries.
"The purpose is really to show that Killeen has a place in the arts," said Deanna Frazee, director of the Killeen Public Libraries system. "We've got a lot of unsung talent here, but we've got some from the outside as well. This helps us showcase both."
The Festival marked the end of Take 190 West, which kicked off with a KISD student art show earlier in the week and featured a preview party for the artists and a silent auction Friday night.
"It brings the authors in and gives them exposure. And it gives the community exposure to the artists and their artwork," said
Debbie Eubanks, circulation supervisor for Killeen Public Libraries and an event volunteer.
New to the event this year was the addition of sculptors, who were competing to win People's Choice and Judge's Awards. Nancy Gray, art consultant, event volunteer and founder of Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden in Lampasas, said the group began working on their competition entries at 8 a.m. Friday morning and had until 5 p.m. Saturday to finish their work.
Ashok Srikantappa said he came to the event to see his professor, Art Wells, sculpt.
"I do some stone sculpture myself," he said. "I heard there was going to be other sculptors here, and it's very hard to see them all in one place. They're very cool people."
Rebecca Canton-Busch of Austin was named came in first for the People's Choice Award and said she was pleased. The experienced sculptor has done a few similar competitions before, and said she wanted the swan she crafted to resonate with people.
"I tried to make it something people would identify with," she said.
Bob Ragan of Florence received first place with the Judge's Award and took home $1,500 for his effort. Ragan is a self-taught artist who has been carving stone for 30 years.
"It was last minute," he said of his winning design. "I wasn't too sure about it yesterday but I kind of made a comeback today."
While the sculptors were racing the clock, plenty was taking place indoors.
Among the nationally recognized literary professionals present at the event was Brian Floca, a Temple native whose book, "Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11," was named a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year, and a Society of Illustrators silver medal winner.
Floca, who writes the text and does illustrations for many of his books, said he now has a book about steam locomotives in the works.
"Children's books are always a great medium," he said. "They're a chance to tell a story with pictures, that's what I love most about it."
Fellow illustrator Terry Widener, whose work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, was giving festival-goers a sneak peak at illustrations for a new book about Willie Mays, due out in 2013.
"It's kind of good timing. I sent sketches out last week," he said, noting the process of illustrating books takes a considerable amount of time. "It's kind of like working on a movie. I've got to be able to tell a story even if there are no words."
Both authors said they were enjoying the festival and enjoyed socializing with those who shared an interest in their craft.
"It's an amazing, great group of people here, it's a terrific collection. You'd be happy to have this group at any book festival in the country," Floca said. "It's great for us to get to talk to each other, because this is work we do on our own."
Pat Anderson, a bookseller, was in charge of gathering the artists and illustrators for the festival and said the group had impressive resumes.
"In Texas we have seven really top-shelf book illustrators, and six of them are here," he said. "There's a huge amount of talent here, really."
Some of that talent was local. Jazmine Swanson, an Ellison High School senior, was displaying her two books, published in September 2010.
The young author said she began writing when she was 3 years old and began working on her first book, "Avalon," when she was 14.
"It just kind of happened," she said, noting her mother and others encouraged her to publish her stories. "It's pretty amazing and inspiring. I'm the youngest one here and I feel honored to be around lots of authors that are older than me."
Author Gary Braunbeck, who specializes in thrillers, mysteries and horror, was one such notable writer. He has penned 20 novels and short story collection, most of which are dark.
"I grew up watching old horror movies with my dad on the weekends," he explained. As for what his readers get from his books, he listed two simple things.
Friend and fellow author Lee Thomas, also a dark writer, said he enjoyed the festival so far.
"I think it's great," he said. "It's been a great experience."
In the art display room, Rhea Brown was not only showing off her artwork, but painting faces of patrons as well. She said she began her craft 10 years ago, when she began the Phoenix Art Studio. She said her work focuses on miracles people tell her about.
"I paint them and put them on display," she said, noting her works is currently featured in Temple at the Culture and Activities Center and at Vive Les Arts.
Western painter Howard DuBois of Howard DuBois Art was also on hand to show his work.
"I've been painting all my life. And I'm not going to tell you how old I am," he added. "I'm pretty much self-taught."
He said he hoped observers took away the right message.
"I hope they get a sense of what western life was all about," he said. He also added he enjoyed seeing the other artists at the event.
"There's a lot of promising artists in the youth exhibit," he said. "I think there's some good art out here."
Steven Napper, who has also shown at the event before, also praised the KISD artists.
"The students' work is really phenomenal," he said. "People say kids today can't focus. But this requires hours and hours of work and concentration and focus."
Jonah Bryant, a seventh-grader at Rancier Middle School, had art on display: a self-portrait he made out of a block of wood, panty hose and a bent wire clothes-hangar.
"It was a class assignment, but we made it more than that. We made it a passion," he said.
He said he'd been doing art for a while, but this was his most notable accomplishment in the art world so far.
"This is my first work of art that's been anywhere else than in a drawer," Bryant said. "I feel proud of myself."
Jefferson Rybak-Dow also had art on display. The Eastern Hills Middle School student made a person out of papier-mache, and his father said it wasn't his first art endeavor.
"He's been into art pretty much since birth," Greg Dow said. "There's some pretty talented kids in the area."
Contact Lauren Cabral at email@example.com or (254) 501-7476.
First place: Rebecca Canton-Busch
Second place: Chris Garibay
Third place: Dean Reganess
First place: Bob Ragan ($1,500)
Second place: Rebecca Canton-Busch ($1,000)
Third place: Dean Reganess ($500)
Honorable Mention: Cheryl D. Latimer