Wimberley artists honor those affected by the Memorial Day flood

It’s been two years since the deadly Blanco River flood struck during Memorial Day weekend. In its aftermath, the small, tight-knit community of Wimberley came together to provide food, shelter, and supplies for neighbors, shoulders to lean on, and manpower during search parties and rebuilds.

For artist Jan Fitzhugh, president on the board of the Wimberley Valley Art League at the time of the flood, it was important that the local art community do something to aid and honor those who had suffered loss from the flood.

The rest of the Art League agreed. They devised a fundraiser called “100 at 100,” which sought 100 artists to each create a unique work of art that the Art League would sell for $100. If all 100 pieces were sold, as hoped, the WVAL would raise $10,000 on behalf of the flood victims.

As news of the flood spread nationwide, the modest fundraiser gained attention and momentum built. “I started getting calls from everywhere from artists donating works of art,” says Jan. “Most of the pieces sold for $100 apiece, as planned, but we also had a silent auction for some extremely valuable pieces of art.”

A piece by Wimberley artist Maxine Price sold for $2,500; and another by Lilli Pell, also a local artist, went for $1,700. In all, the fundraiser brought in $45,000 for the Barnabas Connection, a Wimberley nonprofit that aided flood victims in rebuilding their homes, buying groceries, and paying for medical care.

Meanwhile, the Wimberley Arts and Cultural Alliance founded a new committee to create a monument and park to honor folks affected by the flood. “We wanted to capture the beauty of the Blanco River, acknowledge Wimberley’s spirit of community, and provide a place to remember those who had lost their lives or suffered property damage,” says Jan.

To select a park and monument design that would be most meaningful to the public, the Blanco River Monument Committee hosted a competition, welcoming Wimberley-area sculptors to submit original concepts. The competition resulted in 12 submissions, which were whittled down to the winning design through a series of community events where the public could use their dollars to vote for their favorite models. The first event took place at the Wimberley Community Center and featured 3D models of all 12 concepts, with their creators standing beside them, happily answering questions.

A few months after the flood’s devastation, the winning design was awarded to sculptor J. J. Priour for his monument to be created from local products, including glass, symbolizing the Blanco’s rushing waters, and central Texas limestone. Since then, the WVAL has hosted a handful of art-themed events—including a prayer flag celebration and a small boot project, modeled after the 50 iconic 6-foot-tall art boots scattered throughout Wimberley—to raise money for the Monument Project.

“We hope to complete the project in 2017,” says Jan, acknowledging that the project is somewhat in limbo until the committee determines the site for the park and monument. Ideally, the land would be donated. Once the project breaks ground, it should take Priour about 90 days to complete the monument.

The Memorial Day Flood was “a devastating event, but if anything could bring a close community even closer, that happened during the flood,” says Jan. “People are still stepping up to help, even two years after the flood. It’s very heartwarming to know that we live in a community that will reach out and help.”

For more information on the Blanco River Monument and ways to contribute or get involved, visit www.blancorivermonument.com or www.facebook.com/blancorivermonument.

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