artNotes from Hyde House: Peanut soup, Art in the Park and Earth Day

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Did you know that a peanut does not grow on a tree like most nuts do? In fact, a peanut grows in the ground as a legume. You can see the components of the peanut plant: stem, pod, root, leaf, peg and flower depicted in this painting by artCentral artist Paula Giltner's painting.

During a spring much like the one we’re enjoying, I first discovered peanut soup at a tiny rustic café beside the ribbon of a roadway winding and bending over the spine of peaks running through North Carolina’s Blueridge Mountains. I fell in love with that soup and developed a great appreciation for George Washington Carver, the “Peanut Man” of Tuskegee University, who found hundreds of uses for peanuts as he promoted them as a way to enrich cotton-depleted soils of the South and offer farmers growing alternatives.

Perfect for these cool transitional days into spring, Carver’s soup  is simple to make with 1 qt. milk, 2 tbs. butter, 2 tbs. flour and 1 c. peanuts. Cook the peanuts until soft; remove the skins, mash or grind until very fine; let the milk come to a boil; add the peanuts; cook 20 minutes. Blend the flour into a smooth paste with milk.  Add the butter to the peanuts and milk, stir in the flour paste, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot. Bon appétit!

After weeks of excited anticipation, spring is again delighting us with beauty around every bend. This coming weekend, just west of Diamond, Missouri, there are many bends waiting to delight, enchant and educate us at George Washington Carver National Monument Park the birthplace and childhood home of George Washington Carver, scientist, educator, artist and humanitarian.

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In celebration of National Park Week all are invited to the annual “Art in the Park/Earth Day” on Saturday, April 20, 2019, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The day is a free event showcasing the artwork of George Washington Carver and an opportunity to celebrate Earth Day early.

Inspired by the natural environment of his childhood home, throughout his lifetime George Washington Carver gained a sense of serenity and personal rejuvenation from nature and from his artistic work. Writing for a newspaper post, Georgia B. Skaggs tells us as a boy Carver made “his own paints from bark, roots and wild berries. Having no canvas, he used boards, tin cans, glass and flat rocks. His skill as a painter won him acclaim at Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition; in 1916 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in England; and was honored with a request for a still life from the famed Luxembourg Gallery in Paris. His greatest recognition as an artist came in 1941, when the Carver Art Gallery in the George Washington Carver Museum at Tuskegee was opened to the public.”

My artist husband David and I take our puppies for a weekly photo-taking walk-about at George Washington Carver National Monument Park every Sunday before our studio afternoons. The puppies know the trail by heart: the meandering, scented paths; the sweet running creek adorned with lush green clusters of watercress; the stacked stone walls with their lovely textured tops; the massive boulder to be scaled for a visit with the beautiful bronze of George Washington Carver as a boy seated in thought; the leaf-carpeted path around the contemplative pond bedecked with reflections of the sky and tree-lined banks; the old Carver cabin with welcoming open doors, rockers for resting and warm wood floors for stretching out in the sun streaming in through paned windows; and the silent village of the family burial grounds just beyond the black walnut trees.

For “Art in the Park/Earth Day” all artists are encouraged to enjoy a day of plein air painting along the trails, to display their work and to give workshops for the public. Visitors are encouraged to participate. A “budding artists” area will feature natural dyes, painting color swatches and other children’s art activities.

At 11:00 a.m., a park ranger will share the program “Expressions of the Soul”, featuring Carver’s artistic creations including some of his original artwork on display in the museum.

At 1:00 p.m., featured artist/guest speaker Sarah Serio, a native of Neosho, Missouri, will give an artist talk entitled “Welcome to the Game: Human Trafficking in America.” Serio is a nationally known, awareness-raising printmaker who creates in traditional methods of hand-carved, hand-inked and hand-pulled images.

In the spirit of awareness raising, George Washington Carver National Monument Park participates in environmental innovation and implementation of earth friendly practices. The walking path leading toward the  site of the Carver cabin is made of re-purposed tires. Down by the creek and up to the bronze of Carver as a boy, the boardwalks are constructed of thousands of up-cycled milk jugs. The Earth Day celebration will include a special film viewing and crafts from recycled materials throughout the day.

Celebrate “Art in the Park/Earth Day”. Wander about, look and see. Enjoy true peacefulness as you sit a spell by the contemplative pond. You’ll be inspired. You’ll be uplifted by art and by the natural beauty of the childhood home of George Washington Carver.  Pausing here you’ll be happy to call our Earth our home!

For information contact park ranger Curtis Gregory at curtis_gregory@nps.gov or (417) 325-4151.

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