I live near an old Texas town named Gruene (pronounced Green), which is advertised on billboards around the area as "gently resisting change since 1872." I don't doubt it, given the town's Germanic roots, but even if that wasn't by design, staying a bit behind the times has worked in the town's favor. Gruene has been growing apace since we moved here, but the growth has been controlled enough to ensure new construction enhances the character of the area rather than diminishes it—all without being overly kitschy, which is a nice change from the Oma-Opa Deutche Heritage motif found everywhere in neighboring New Braunfels (of which Gruene is now an annexed "historic district").
In fact, Gruene is the less frenetic and more generally interesting part of New Braunfels. Like the other area locations on the Guadalupe and Comal rivers, Gruene in the summer is full of toob-rats and other water foul who come for leisurely floats on the slow-moving current. Fortunately, however, the local civic leaders have done a nice job of making the old town center a place where visitors of all ages can do or see interesting things for most of the year. Moreover, most of the activities have something to do with art, music, crafts, or food, and while some of what's there is standard fare for post-yuppie renovated 'oldtown' areas, it is also possible to eat really good food, hear really fine music, and see some genuinely talented artists' work. I have never been disappointed when I visited Gruene because I've always found something interesting to look at, or learned something new, or met an interesting person. Occasionally I also find something that just has to be taken home, like these:
One event held in Gruene in 2009 was the September Metal Arts Festival. This was in addition to the annual October Clay Festival
and the monthly 2-day Market Days
. We visited Gruene on the first day of the event this year and as I expected, I saw some amazing art, made all the more interesting by the metal medium. This was not hanger-wire sculpture or welded-chain rural mailbox posts, this was art in every sense of the word, and although some of it was not appealing to me, it was all generally well crafted. A few pieces were astounding.
The images below are just some of the items at the Metal Arts Fest. Click on them for larger images, or click on an Artist's name to visit his or her website.
Chris Maxa (no link)
One side benefit to this year's event was a really decent folk duo whose music CD I've been listening to since I bought it. Duane Brown and Rudy Littrell call themselves the E-Flat Porch Band
because, according to their website
, the porch in McKinney, Texas where they first practiced "resonates to the key of E-Flat."
I am a big fan of folk music of all sorts, including everything from Zydeco/Cajun to Klezmer to Celtic, Bluegrass, and so on. I like banjos, mandolins, clarinets, jews harps, base fiddles, accordions (well, some), harmonicas, hammer dulcimers, washboards, and all manner of so-called folk instruments. Suffice to say then, though I'm not keen on every song or style on their Porch Music
CD, I was pleased overall, and I was really tickled by a few of the pieces. As odd as it may seem, if I can't get a tune out of my head for days on end, even though it may be maddening, I consider that a decent piece of music. There were a couple of those on the CD, Deep River Blues
& Two Trains
, as well as a really beautiful instrumental titled Lonesome Cowboy Lullaby
and an utterly nonsensical but appealing tune called Pig Meat
I took a chance on the CD based on the tunes I heard them playing and I was not disappointed. It was well worth the cost; moreover, I made the acquaintance of a decent pair of fellows whom I hope to meet again sometime. This was them on the 12th of September at the Gruene Metal Arts Festival.
For anyone who liked the Travolta, MacDowell, Hurt movie Michael
, it may be mildly interesting to note that the line dance scene was filmed in Gruene Hall
, which is a genuine article. The music hall is open to country dancers and partygoers most of the time, but it is also a venue for some decent country musicians including, for example, Tanya Tucker
, Asleep at the Wheel
, Merle Haggard
, and Rodney Crowell
- All photographs on this page were taken with permission (in the case of the sculpture & the E-Flat Porch Band). All of the photos are copyrighted and all rights are reserved by me, but the artwork copyright belongs to the artist whose name is listed above each set of images. Contact info for each artist is given below.
- Jim Adams
P.O. Box 1824
Sugar Land, Texas 77487
- Warren Cullar
12102 Conrad Rd.
Austin, Texas 78727
- Terry Jones
TMJ Creative Sculptures
721 N Main
Jewett, Texas 75846
- Chris Maxa
P.O. Box 911
Leakey, Texas 78873