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Anvers, L'entree du Port by Eugene BoudinBy Charles Lohrmann

When you spend enough time studying and enjoying works of art, inevitably an individual painting, sculpture or photograph will take on personal, almost totemic, significance. Over time, if you visit and venerate the work often enough, the relationship that develops is almost like a friendship. You remember and think about the art at odd times, wonder what other viewers think of the piece, share your thoughts about the experience, and plan to visit again next time you’re in the neighborhood.
I have one particular group of such friends that I visit often and suggest you get to know as well. It’s an attractive group of five small-scale

Impressionist paintings in the collection of The Old Jail Art Center in Albany, on US 180 northeast of Abilene. The diverse subjects represented in the group—a still life of roses, a harbor view, a landscape, a nude, and characters cavorting at a masked ball—create an imaginary visual vocabulary for life in the late 19th Century, so there’s a definite romantic appeal. And the small scale—not much larger than the magazine you’re reading—makes these paintings seem all the more exquisite. The larger (and more typical) Impressionist paintings you’ll see in other museum galleries are amazing and engaging in their own way, but these small paintings, particularly in this intimate setting, seem more personal.
Even though I’ve been thinking of these paintings as my own for several years, I decided I needed to find out a little more about them. So, on a recent visit to The Old Jail Art Center, I asked Museum Director Margaret Blagg about the collection.
She explained that they were bequeathed to the museum by an Albany man named Marshall R. Young Jr., who had strayed from his hometown to become a magazine publisher in California. She also put my mind at ease by adding that—along with another favorite, a Modigliani—this set of Impressionist paintings (aka, the masterworks) would always be on view.
If it were my personal choice, this group of paintings would always have a small room of its own—a shrine of sorts—but that’s not in the cards. So I’ll plan to continue my drop-in visits to the museum to see them wherever they’re displayed.
After sharing a few more details about the Impressionist paintings, Blagg, as museum directors do, wanted to point out some other developments at the Old Jail Art Center. Turns out the museum, as part of a recent project, has just restored the jail’s windows to the original look, and now the glass is inside the bars instead of outside. So passersby can see the jail bars in the windows as they scrutinize the odd glyphs carved in the stones by the Scottish stonemasons documenting their work on the structure. The bars create a more authentic historic view of the 1870s, two-story building, which was the first public edifice in Shackelford County.
The Old Jail also has enhanced its already-appealing collection of Asian art with special selections on loan from the internationally renowned Arthur M. Sackler Collection. And, in the two rooms upstairs (the original jail cells), Blagg explains a new series of exhibits called A Cell of One’s Own, which will feature the work of contemporary Texas artists.
But, wait a minute. I have to ask, how does a small museum in a town of 2,000 manage such a diverse collection? The answer from Blagg is: “The museum was founded by art collectors, so it had a serious art collection from the very beginning. One of the founders, Bill Bomar, was an artist himself and was a member of the noted Fort Worth Circle. He and his cousin, Reilly Nail, were the co-founders.” Of course, prosperous ranching and oil interests in the area have a lot to do with the museum’s ongoing operation, but the original vision is still essential to the identity of the collection.

 What you'll find

The Old Jail Art Center’s collection of small-scale Impressionist paintings includes:
•    Nu Couché, vu de dos (Reclining Nude from Back) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
•    Paysage avec Rivière (Landscape with River), by Gustave Caillebotte.
•    Nature Morte aux Roses (Still Life of Roses) Henri Fantin-Latour.
•    Anvers, L’entrée du Port (Entrance to Port of Anvers) Eugene Boudin.
•    Au bal masqué—les fêtes Parisiennes—nouveaux confettis (Masked Ball) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
For more information on Albany’s Old Jail Art Center (at 201 South Second St.), call 325/762–2269;

By Charles Lohrmann

A view of Fort Griffin's administrative building from the ruins of the Army post's bakery. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)On most days, the sketchy ruins of stone buildings at old Fort Griffin will not offer many details of 19th-Century life in this rugged and hilly country 15 miles north of Albany. But on a recent late-summer afternoon, uncharacteristically overcast skies and an unusual misting rain cloaked the landscape in foggy mystery and muffled all sound, so that even the occasional passing of a truck on US 283 in the valley below the site registered as only a low whir. And in that silence so complete that even my own footsteps echoed slightly, the solemn, stolid buildings seemed willing to reveal their secrets.

First established in 1867, Fort Griffin prospered for less than 15 years as a supply post to serve other frontier Texas forts and to support the commercial hunters and cattlemen driving their herds on the Western Trail north. While the Army post occupied the high ground overlooking the Clear Fork of the Brazos, the hard-drinking, rough-hewn town known as The Flat (among other names) sprang up on the level river valley below. Legend has it that this town, organized as Fort Griffin in 1874, earned a notorious reputation for its walk-on-the-wild-side ways and for the visitation of characters such as Wyatt Earp, Big Nose Kate, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday. A few relics of the town—including a Sharps Rifle originally purchased at Conrad and Rath Merchandise—are on display at the Old Jail Art Center in Albany.

Even though the imaginary activity of the Fort Griffin Army Post in its bygone days enlivens my quiet stroll through the grounds, I’m as interested in learning a little more about the current activities at the site and check in with Site Manager Mitch Baird. He tells me that the Texas Historical Commission, the agency that now operates the site, has commissioned a major effort to restore the original grassland at Fort Griffin by removing invasive mesquite and prickly pear from about 75 acres surrounding the historic ruins.

Baird explains that the grassland restoration will not only return the site to its true 1870s appearance, but also that the work will enhance wildlife habitat. And, no doubt the enhanced grassland will be welcome for the State Long-horn Herd, now about 75 animals strong, that also rambles at Fort Griffin.

In addition to grassland restoration, the Historical Commission also has plans to stabilize the original military structures at the site, including the hand-dug, rock-lined cistern, in which water was stored for the post. Within the year, a local friends-of-the-park organization plans to take the first steps toward adding a roof to the powder magazine and stabilizing that building’s structure.

Today, eight sites (including Fort Griffin), along with the communities that support them, encourage history buffs to make the 650-mile-long drive called the Texas Forts Trail.
But Fort Griffin is not just for history enthusiasts. A 50-acre campground adjoins the Clear Fork of the Brazos and invites relaxed exploration with three easy trails that meander over the riparian landscape.

Brave New World

San Antonio's New World Wine & Food Festival's Totally Tejas event brings a cowboy out of the cantina. (Copywright Theresa Noyes, Studio 1408)On November 4-9, the San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival marries cuisine from across the state to wine from around the world. Let’s all toast to that! Six days of classes, workshops, seminars and tastings mean you’ll have ample opportunities to learn more about pairing wine with food; cooking regional specialties from Mexico, France, and America’s Pacific Northwest; and eating locally (wherever you live).

If you’re interested in growing grapes on your own patch of land, a seminar on sustainable viticulture may help you decide to ditch your day job and take up farming (or not). For many festival-goers, the most anticipated event is the New World Grand Tasting, held this year downtown, in the native-stone “Grotto” adjacent to the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center: At this event, more than 30 local chefs pair offerings (goat cheese and fig canapés! Mushroom-and-basil ravioli! Grilled shrimp-tomatillo tostadas!) with their favorite food-friendly wines.

On November 9, cocktail attire makes way for blue jeans at an all-ages event called Totally Tejas, which takes place at Rio Cibolo Ranch, a Western-themed special-events center about 25 minutes northeast of downtown San Antonio. With golden hay bales and stately Longhorns as a backdrop, guests can sample wines and foods; enjoy live music; shop for locally made crafts, food items, and housewares; and even learn a few tricks with a lasso. (Trust us: It’s harder than it looks.)

Advance tickets range from $45 (Totally Tejas) to $80 (Grand Tasting). Call 210/822-9555;

Best Little Art Center in Texas

When potter Roger Allen and two other artists purchased an abandoned chicken farm on the outskirts of San Angelo in 1971, they hoped to build a supportive community where artists could live and work. Allen’s original partners have moved on, but over the past 30 years, the grizzled visionary has transformed the three-acre site into a lovely, rambling compound that includes 15 artists’ studios, two galleries, a B&B, and a small, topflight restaurant.
The Chicken Farm Art Center’s monthly First Saturday celebrations feature the work of a local artist and include live music, demonstrations by resident artists (a.k.a. Chicken Farmers), and art activities. First Thursday yard concerts spotlight local singer-songwriters. Annual events include an April ceramics weekend (in conjunction with the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts’ national show), a Blacksmith and Blues affair in May, and the three-day Thanksgiving Open House, a 35-year-old tradition that attracts more than a thousand visitors.
Held on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving, the Open House reflects the generous, laid-back spirit that pervades the Chicken Farm. Peruse pottery, paintings, sculpture, jewelry, fiber arts, and mosaics by some 50 artists from across the state, listen to live music, take in demonstrations from blacksmithing to stone carving, have a massage, and enjoy free refreshments. Call 325/653-4936;


Lena Horne (Indiana University Black Film Center/Archive)Screen Images

Through November 30, the Grace Museum in Abilene showcases a cutting-edge collection of film posters representing almost a century of independent African-American cinema. Imaging Blackness, 1915-2002: Film Posters from the Indiana University Black Film Center/Archive includes 43 posters that explore the development of African-American roles in cinema. For example, the black-and-white poster for Richard Norman’s 1926 film, The Flying Ace, touts the movie’s “All Colored Cast,” “Six Smashing Reels,” and “Thrills! Action! Punch!” Norman, a filmmaker from Florida, sought to counter stereotypes of the day with positive film roles.
Compare the graphics for The Flying Ace with the poster for the 1972 “blaxploitation” film Superfly—with its stylized font and “stick-it-to-the-man” tagline. Then study the contrast between the somber graphics in the poster of 1985’s The Color Purple, which explored the life of a young African-American woman in the early 1900s, and the image on the 1991 poster for Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever, which examined the thorny issues of inner-city racial stereotypes. Viewed together, the posters display the emergence of thriving African-American cinema.
The Grace Museum encompasses three museums in the 1909 Grace Hotel building, including The Art Museum, The History Museum, and The Children’s Museum. Call 325/673-4587; www. 


A Texas Time machine

Henkel Square, a site established as an authentic representation of culture and life in 19th-Century Round Top, sets the stage for an 1860 Living History event.
For two days—November 8-9—visitors to Henkel Square will get a glimpse of the everyday lives of Round Top citizens in November 1860, as living-history reenactors work, speak, and interact like they would have in the 19th Century. While portraying various residents (expect to see a doctor, a merchant, a telegraph operator, and more), the actors will demonstrate daily activities of the time, including washing clothes, sewing, cooking, and banjo playing. You might witness fervent discussions of the 1860 presidential election, which raised questions of slavery and states’ rights and helped set the stage for the Civil War.
Visitors can explore the 11 historic buildings on site, including several wooden houses (the Henkel and Zapp-Von Rosenberg homes are in their original locations), a general store, a church, and a post office, all of which are filled with period furnishings. While wandering the grounds, visitors are welcome to interact with the “residents” and ask them about their daily lives. Don’t be shy about knocking on doors and entering homes, sending telegrams, and checking for mail at the post office. You may even be approached by a curious newspaper reporter asking your opinion about Abraham Lincoln’s win at the polls. Call 979/249-3308;  
                                         —Caitlin Sullivan

Cranberries Come Later

The 41st Capital One Bank Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot, held in Big D on Thursday morning, November 27, is one of the largest events of its kind in the nation. From humble beginnings 40 years ago, this holiday fun-and-fitness fete now welcomes thousands of participants and onlookers, as well as competitive runners from around the country and the world.
There are plenty of noted Dallas landmarks to see over the course’s eight-mile route: architect I.M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall (the Trot’s start and finish); sculptor Henry Moore’s The Dallas Piece at City Hall Plaza; the Dallas Farmers Market; the Deep Ellum arts and entertainment district; the West End restaurant and entertainment district; the Sixth Floor Museum; Reunion Tower; the Houston Street Viaduct; the Trinity River; Lake Cliff Park; and the historic Jefferson Street Bridge connecting Oak Cliff to downtown Dallas.
Don’t have an eight-mile run in your exercise repertoire? Enjoy the Trot’s three-mile fun run/walk. Dogs and strollers are welcome. Or, just come watch and partake of the event’s buzz and good vibes. There are fun activities for everyone: a family tent, a petting zoo, clowns, pony rides, bounce houses, live music, and much more. The Trot supports programming at the Dallas YMCA. Call 214/954-0500;                                                          


Manet to Miró

Through December 2, the Meadows Museum in Dallas presents From Manet to Miró: Modern Drawings from the Abelló Collection, an exhibit of 64 drawings by some of the most important artists of the past two centuries. Chosen from the private collection of Spanish art collectors Juan Abelló and his wife, Anna Gamazo, the show includes pieces by Manet, Degas, Dalí, Miró, Goya, Pissarro, Renoir, and other artists. “I believe drawing to be the most immediate and spontaneous form of artistic expression,” Juan Abelló told Dr. Mark Roglán, the Meadows’ director. “It always astonishes me to see how a blank page can be transformed by a single line, the result of a rapid gesture that … gives birth to an idea, and by extension, the artist’s imaginative world.” Call 214/768-2516;



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With pleasant late-September temperatures and a picture-perfect blue sky overhead, I shrugged on a backpack loaded with overnight gear and made last-minute hiking plans with friends in the Basin parking lot of Big Bend National Park. Above us towered the craggy heights of the Chisos Mountains, daring us to hike up into the rocky peaks.

Hiker Mary Baxter rests after ascending Guadalupe Peak. The summit affords views from the highest point in Texas, as marked by the stainless steel pyramid. (Photos by E. Dan Klepper)

I am standing on the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, tracing the Earth’s curvature with my fingertip. The horizon bends like a longbow at this height—8,749 feet above sea level—and a gauzy canopy hangs above it, capped by an azure sky.

Known for its sand hills, this West Texas town offfers desert surprises. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

When a friend told me that the largest oak forest in North America covers some 40,000 acres near Monahans, it sounded like a setup. Yeah, right.

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