Arboretum showcases local artist talent

A number of bright, nature-based oil paintings by Charles Wallis hang in Whitehall Center at the Carleen Bright Arboretum in Woodway. His collection is one of many year-round art installations hosted by the facility.

“We are an arboretum supporting local artists and education, so that’s just part of what we have always done,” said Janet Schaffer, director of arboretum, tourism and recreational services at the Carleen Bright Arboretum. “Whitehall Center is actually a replica of the very first church that was in Woodway — it used to be in Whitehall Park. When they built [the replica] in the arboretum, they designated it as a community center and arts center.”

Wallis, who graduated from Baylor University with a bachelor’s degree in art in 1967, was asked to showcase his work after members of the arboretum staff saw his exhibit with the Texas Fine Artists, a community which comprises local artists of Waco, and which Wallis frequently shows art with.

After college, Wallis opened a graphic design studio and spent many years working in sales and marketing in College Station.

“Art is not necessarily a career to make a living in unless you do it in some commercial vein, as working in marketing or a design company or making websites — something of that nature,” Wallis said. “It’s more about being happy with living than it is about making money.”

Now, he spends his days painting.

“I’ve been painting every day for the last 10 years since I sold the business and retired,” Wallis said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do; I was just afraid I couldn’t make a living at it.”

Wallis painted western art early on in his artistic career, but then began experimenting with abstract art in college.

“When I went to Baylor, if you didn’t do abstract art or non-objective art, you couldn’t make a grade above a C, and at that time I was wanting to paint realistic things,” Wallis said. “Right now, I am just fascinated by a modern-impressionistic approach to painting. I find it challenging and rewarding.”

He is currently working on an abstract series of paintings that are only red, white, black and gray, which contrast the colorful collection displayed at the arboretum.

Each artist’s work is displayed for about six to eight weeks. At the beginning of each new exhibit, the arboretum hosts a show for the artist. Four hundred invitations are sent out to “Friends of the Arboretum” membership holders, allowing the artist to speak with the community and sell their art. It is also a chance for family members of the artist to see their work presented, said Meredith Perry, event coordinator for the Carleen Bright Arboretum.

“He does a lot of impressionistic stuff,” Perry said of Wallis. “It has a very ethereal-impressionist look. It’s pretty great to have prolific and talented artists that can fill an entire gallery with their artwork for us.”

“Down by the Little Creek,” one of Wallis’ array of paintings, has won several awards, including a first-place prize from the Conroe Art League.

“I’ve always liked little creeks. I enjoy water and have lived near the water most of my life and it’s a peaceful place to be,” Wallis said. “I just hope people enjoy seeing it.”

At Wallis’ art reception on July 22 at the Whitehall Center, guests could enter a drawing for a free painting, which took place when the show closed. The reception was well attended, Wallis said, and he had many a conversation that night.

“We do have a lot of people who will come in and come to the art receptions,” Perry said. “We are starting to notify the schools when we are having art receptions to let the kids know in case it’s something they might be interested in and to kind of see that there is and can be a future in art if you’re pretty diligent. I think it’s greatly received by the community.”

The art on display ranges in mediums throughout the year, alternating between photography, oils, watercolors and a few others. Members from the Central Texas Watercolor Society and local photography clubs are often featured.

“A lot of artists will contact us, and our main criteria are that it’s family friendly and that it’s something that brides don’t mind having hung up during their weddings because we have so many weddings going on in there,” Schaffer said.

The Whitehall Center is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. most weekdays, with the exception of events being held in the hall. There, visitors can sign into the guestbook and take a look at the works of art for no cost.

Charles Wallis’ exhibit will be available until Aug. 26. The next exhibit featuring Willie + Rose Photography begins on Aug. 28. More event information can be found on the Carleen Bright Arboretum Facebook page.