"For the past little-over-a-year, I've been inspired by this house that's the Smoot Mansion," says artist Valerie Fowler. "Now it's called the Flower Hill Foundation and it's a historic Austin home, right on West Sixth Street, that's becoming a museum."
About two years ago, Fowler met with Robin Grace Soto, the executive director of the Flower Hill Foundation, and they discussed the possibility of Fowler creating an art exhibit inspired by the Smoot house. "Robin said yes and I was thrilled and so we've sort of been collaborating ever since," Fowler says. "And I've had access to the old, dusty rooms, and been inspired by the light coming through the Venetian blinds, and just weird, quirky things about the house but also about the land. It's been a real kind of stretch for me, also, because I usually paint about nature, and this is a house. And it has to do with people and the history of people and the history of Austin, also."
Soto was thrilled to have Fowler create art at and about Flower Hill. "Having an artist enter that space and be inspired by it and create from it... got us all thinking," she says. "This is a community space that has always been open to artists, always available to creatives. O. Henry -- William S. Porter -- was a dear family friend of the Smoots. And they had a number of different artists stay in the home and create works of art in the home."
Fowler has been creating the works in Art at Flower Hill for the past year. "I did drawings, one very large oil painting, and some mixed media pieces," she says. She also created a crankie, which, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a long illustrated scroll featuring original artwork, housed in a large box and "cranked" to move along to musical accompaniment. The music for the crankie is provided by Fowler's husband, veteran musician Brian Beattie.
"It was fun to just write music based on the narrative that she created," Beattie says. "Which was a narrative of the space... as it existed before the house was there, and through the house's development, through the development of Austin, and then sort of fancifully what later on might be like." The cranky will be performed at both the opening reception on September 1 and an artist talk on September 12. It might seem slightly confusing, but due to some scheduling hiccups, Art at Flower Hill won't be on display at the Flower Hill Foundation, but at the Neill-Cochran House Museum.