Happy Valentine's Day! May yours be filled with love in ways that surprise and delight you. Let's all keep our hearts open and let the love come in!

Editor's Note: This is the first of a three-part series from artCentral DirectorCurator Alice Lynn Greenwood-Mathé about Carthage Artist Andy Thomas.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May yours be filled with love in ways that surprise and delight you. Let’s all keep our hearts open and let the love come in!

Celebrating our first Valentine’s as newlyweds, my husband David and I agree, “Love’s timing is mysterious.” Though destiny surely intended our rendezvous, we’ve been more than thirty years in finding each other and choosing to make Carthage our home.

artCentral played the cupid in our coming together. Now we’re relishing each precious day we’re sharing as we marvel at our delayed good fortune. Together we’re pouring our hearts into making our individual and collaborative art, as we pour our love into serving the art and artists of our community through artCentral.

Entering my fourth year as artCentral’s DirectorCurator, I know without doubt I’ve been preparing all my life for this unique opportunity in this special place. The skills I possess, the talents I bring and my abiding passion and love for a life of art and artists make me uniquely suited to direct our small town non-profit art center in this town of artistic treasures that are so easy to love.

The other day, just up the hill from artCentral, when I walk into a haven of art and love, my heart is set aflutter. Before I can ring the bell, there’s the front door opening wide. A warmly smiling Andy Thomas, wonderfully successful artist and a true hometown treasure, welcomes me into the charming home he shares with his wife, Dina, and their beautiful family.

I follow Andy up winding stairs while holding a cup of the freshly brewed coffee he’s handed me. Passing one show-stopping, beautifully framed painting and then another and another, we weave through a labyrinthine warren leading into the inner sanctum that is his artist studio.

Looking beyond Andy’s expansive studio window, the winter lawn stretches on and on to the edge of the ridge. Though the day is gray and chill, inside the atmosphere sparkles with color and creativity and our conversation threaded through and through with our celebration of art, artists and the creative process.

Andy gestures me toward the comfortably upholstered high stool at his research and drafting table. For the two hours of our visit I perch there asking interview questions. Andy sits relaxed in his low, rolling stool stationed before his very large canvas now under way—a collection of presidents sharing round table camaraderie. Pigments loosely applied block in background colors while the foreground is a maze of heavy, dark, carefully-crafted lines just beginning to reveal the animation of the faces that will bring life to the finished rendering. What a privilege for me to view an Andy Thomas painting in the making!

While intrigued by this work in progress, I’m repeatedly drawn to a radiant portrait centrally hung like an ever present muse above Andy’s work space. She’s a glowing, dark-haired beauty painted in vibrant, warm tones. She’s Dina, Andy’s wife. The love emanating into the space between them is palpable.

I’m inspired by the accomplishments Andy and Dina have and continue to create together in their collaborative partnership. Andy tells me they’ve been married almost thirty years. They’re a magical pairing, just as I believe David and I are meant to be.

Andy’s eyes twinkle, reflecting on meeting Dina for the first time while he was on a business trip for Leggett & Platt, his then employer. He asks me, “Do you remember the movie, ‘My Cousin Vinnie’? Well, Dina was just like the young Italian woman played by Morisa Tormei!” Indeed I do remember the character—brash and bold, flamboyant and fiery, very intelligent and charmingly irresistible—the perfect business partner for co-creating recognition and success.

Today being Valentine’s, our day for celebrating love, I’m sharing Andy’s and Dina’s love story. In coming Art Notes I’ll give you the backstory on Andy’s beginning as a young man of seventeen launching into the work world. He enjoyed a sixteen year career at Leggett & Platt before bravely deciding to support his family with his art as their sole source of income.

While you wait to learn more about Andy, treat yourself with a visit to artCentral’s spring exhibition “Art Speaks”, the not-to-be-missed mixed media collection presented by the Joplin Regional Artists Coalition. This impressive exhibit is on view in our elegant Hyde House during weekend gallery hours and by appointment through March 18, 2018. Admission is free. Call (417) 358-4404 for information.