“With the new day comes new strengths and new thoughts” is the Jan. 7 quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt on my daily calendar. A personal strength and encouragement in Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the first lady’s life in January 1930 was increasing attention from the media about Warm Springs, Ga., to which President Roosevelt was giving national recognition as a therapeutic center for polio patients — one of his deep interests.
Fast forward to January 2018, and these days also foster new enthusiasm and thinking, especially if you hear Christian music by Ryan Robertson, “The Singing Judge,” or see an exhibit of works by Art Bacon at the Oxford Performing Arts Center, on display through February.
Important stories are worth finding, telling — and singing — if you have Robertson’s passion for delivering messages through music. The songwriter both tells and sings as he and his band play for groups around the South, with upbeat string music to the beat of the drums.
Robertson’s recent program for the Daughters of the American Revolution was related to the American Revolutionary War. One of the songs he taught about was “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” The melody used is the same as that of the national anthem of the United Kingdom, “God Save the Queen.” The song served as one of the de facto national anthems of the United States before the official adoption of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931. “Yankee Doodle” started out as a well known British song dating back to the early 1700s.
Robertson gives other one-man programs on patriotism and gospel music, alone or with his bands. He is featured at senior citizen dances, corporate events, churches, schools and weddings.
“God has put in me the desire to produce a good sound, to motivate people and to have a lot of fun,” he said. There’s a unity formed between a performer and audiences, he discovered years ago. “It’s a good way to make friends,” he said.
Robertson’s CD “Someday Soon” features four vocalists, a steel guitar and dobro (two instruments in the same family), a fiddle, harmonica and mandolin. The ensemble delivers a full sound. It is an easy-listening medley with rhyming verses and clear messages. It addresses removing the Ten Commandments from public view, the problem of drugs and violence replacing the Golden Rule, and a son’s touching admiration of his dad.
In 2016, two of the band’s songs scored high on the country gospel radio charts. “God Against the Law” was No. 1 and “Little Yellow Seeds” was No. 2.
February brings another challenge: a gospel visual and audio recording that can be downloaded from iTunes and is also available on CD or DVD.
Works by Art Bacon on display in Oxford
The artist has won numerous awards. Now he has won another one. On Monday night, Art Bacon was given an Artistic Excellence Award by the Oxford Arts Council and the Martin-Lett Gallery Board of Directors. The award was presented at the reception for the opening of Bacon’s exhibit at the Oxford Performing Arts Center.
Bacon, a former educator and administrator at Talladega College, said he was deeply gratified by the appreciation shown to him and to his collection of recent works, “Images of the South.” People gathered from this area as well as Birmingham, Atlanta, Talladega and Nashville.
“People are my subjects of choice, especially neglected and older people whose experiences show in their faces,” Bacon said. “I now use more color than in earlier years and a variety of media and techniques, often combining several. I still like the use of lines. My palette is often limited.”
A few pieces focus on places. “A Cabin in the Woods,” an acrylic painting, could be a place in the viewer’s imagination. “Kymulga County Bridge,” an ink drawing, is a site in Talladega County.
Blue is dominant in his work, a hue that to him makes colors beside it come alive.
Bacon’s career started off strong. In his first professional competition, a Birmingham show, he won second place and sold 30 drawings. Currently, his art is seen in at least six museums or universities.
In May of last year, Bacon was one of eight Alabamians honored during the Alabama State Council on the Arts’ ceremony “Celebration of the Arts.”
On the international level, he gives an annual interactive phone lecture on Art and the Civil Rights Movement to an American Studies class at the University of Warsaw, Poland.
The exhibit at the Oxford Performing Arts Center will be on display through February.
Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.