Thursday, April 30, 2009

Art on the Tracks

The Bessemer Hall of History celebrated 40 years of operation on Saturday with music, food and art. Art on the Tracks featured many local artists who paints a variety of scenes. These include landscapes, still-lifes, portraits, marine life and abstracts.Celina Rocha is a visual artist originally from Uruguay, but now lives in Birmingham. She was a teacher for 32 years and painted during the summer, but since her retirement she has dedicated her life to painting. “I like to paint marine life the best, but my favorite painting was a landscape of a ruin with a country side in the background,” she said. Rocha also used therapeutic painting to help children with autism. Her work can be found in the Jennifer Harwell Art Studio in Homewood and Birmingham as well as internationally. Donald Housler, from Birmingham, paints as well, but he said he dislikes painting landscapes. “I stick with portraits,” he said. “My favorite painting is of Einstein and I also like John Lennon’s.” Housler said he takes pictures of the person at different angles and. He then paints a portrait by combining all of the angles and making one picture. “I work with children and they don’t sit still,” he said. Housler makes art cards as well. These are post card sized paper with a portrait of your choice. His work can be found in Herz Gallery and Studio in Northport. Mayor Ed May cut the ribbon to the newly remodeled Bessemer Hall of History. It was temporarily closed for the renovation. This is not the first renovation it has received. Louise Ayer Tommie, Joan Shivers and Joyce Roe Ward and, with help from the Bessemer Junior Service League, started the first renovation nearly 40 years ago. The museum was originally in the basement of the library but these three women wanted to find it its own home. They said it took them 16 years for the museum to be placed in the depot terminal. “There were four phases in renovating the depot,” Tommie said. “The first one was acquiring the building, the second one was the roof and outer area, the third one was the bathrooms, plumbing and electric and finally the finishing touches such as painting.” The women said getting the building took eight years of negotiation. They said it was full of pigeons and the basement had been set fire. The renovation came to a total of $350,000, but grants from the city, county and state helped as well as donations from the Junior Service League and the community. “We are just glad we got to see it restored again before we get any older,” the women said. “We didn’t even grow up here, but we feel like wherever you live you should do as much as you can to help.” The museum houses antique cash registers, typewriters, phones, dresses and has pictures of the town from 70 years ago. It also contains memorabilia from Bessemer High School. The museum was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in West Jefferson County in 1973. The ribbon was not only cut for the depot but another one was also cut for the millionth boxcar from Pullman Standard. The Wrecking Crew, a model railroad club from Birmingham, displayed a 1940s replica of Bessemer. The club obtained old tax records, which had a description of each building and a picture, and used it to help them build the models. They also used the city directory for names and members of the community who remembered the town back then. While seeing the 1950’s model fire trucks, the art seers also heard music from Three on a String, a blue grass band. The band was inducted into the Alabama Blue Grass Hall of Fame on March 21. The Bessemer Hall of History is opened from Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and closed from 12-1 p.m. for lunch. For more information call 205-426-1633.

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