78° F Saturday, June 24, 2017

By Jo Watts

Helping another artist after the Bastrop firesJo-Watts1

This past weekend my husband and I attended the home warming of friends who had lost their residences and everything they owned in September 2011 Bastrop County Complex Fire. I know I’ve written about the fire in this column several times and probably will again.

To me it seems odd that I didn’t know Robin Lively and her husband, Jim, before this event. She’s an artist – a very talented painter. I thought I knew all the artists in the county, but I obviously did not. Another thing that makes it unusual is that she’s a neighbor. I know several of her closest neighbors, but had never spoken to Robin until about two weeks after the smoke had cleared.

I answered my phone one day to hear a rather timid voice ask, “Is this the right person to call about art supplies? I heard that someone had some to give to artists whose supplies were lost in the fire.” Did I have art supplies? The Lost Pines Artists’ Alliance had a room overflowing with donated canvass, paints, brushes, mats, etc.

Still, we didn’t meet for some time. She was unable to come to the LPAA right away and I couldn’t wait, so I packed up several items and put them on the porch of the address she had given me. I encouraged her to join the LPAA and eventually, she appeared.

The Lively family had lived in a secluded and heavily-wooded area just off Cottletown Road for more than 25years. Their two sons grew up in the house that burned. Robin had recently retired from her job and was ready to begin her dream of becoming a fulltime artist. The fire failed to change her plans, although it put them on hold for a while.

When I finally met Robin, I found her to be quiet and accepting of her circumstances. She was sad somewhat, but not one to roll over and feel sorry for herself. This lady is a worker. She’s the one you’ve seen hauling her own lawnmower to the LPAA and cutting the grass. She’s the one who rakes the leaves, mops the floors and cleans the kitchen. She and Blanda Butler spent many hours cleaning and organizing the art rooms at Smithville Junior High school. No one asked them to do it – they saw the need and pitched right in. She works as a docent and volunteer for the Bastrop Fine Arts Guild and made large contributions of her time and energy to the recent Empty Bowl Project. Somehow, she’s managed to find time to paint, and for that I am grateful.

On Saturday dozens of friends came to bless the Lively’s new home. We enjoyed food, refreshments and music by the Double Eagle Band. It’s a sturdy, fireproof stone house with a workshop, a new art studio, new furniture and beautiful decorations. Jim and Robin have paid a dear price for it.

I’ve often wondered just how I would have handled the situation if I’d lost my home to this or any disaster. I’ve decided that when I grow up I want to be like Robin Lively. She and so many others like her are my heroes.

The First Presbyterian Church of Smithville will host a free will donation hot dog lunch with all the trimmings on Sunday, May 5 at noon in the church fellowship hall at 300 Burleson St. To-go plates will be available. The elevator entrance, for those unable to use stairs, is in the alley behind the church. The Ladies of the Presbyterian Church will provide goods for a bake sale. All proceeds from the lunch and bake sale will be donated to West, Texas to help those in need. For more information, contact Nancy Evans at nancyjune52@yahoo.com

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