Friends: Lyndon and Stephanie, who are both actively involved in the Arts, appropriately live just off the Avenue of the Arts, in Winston-Salem, known as The City of Arts. At one time the city was justifiably synonymous with tobacco, though not so much anymore. Still, there is plenty of evidence of its former dominant industry--tobacco warehouses and the name Reynolds everywhere. There is even a nearby town called Tobaccoville.
Even if I weren't staying with two people who are so artistically inclined, I would have been well aware of the prominence of art in this community. Biking in from Greensboro, I passed the North Carolina School of the Arts, then the large modern visitor center for Old Salem and as I began the climb into the downtown and its futuristic Wachovia Tower I passed a giant teapot. Trade Street (the Avenue of the Arts), just a couple blocks from City Hall and the heart of the city, was lined with galleries for several blocks. There were signs for the Reynolda Art Center where Stephanie works as a museum educator. Not far away is the Southeast Center for Contemporary Art, SECCA, where Lyndon has worked for years installing its exhibitions.
Lyndon was in the middle of hanging dozens of photographs for this weekend's opening of an exhibition featuring North Carolina photographers. He was eager to finish, as he had a friend who needed help preparing her gallery for a Friday opening of her own. And I was happy to lend a hand as his assistant for both projects. SECCA resides in the former mansion of the Hanes underwear family, who still live nearby. Several large, warehouse-sized galleries, that any curator would love to have, along with an auditorium, adjoin the family's former living quarters.
I've had a most satisfying and nourishing two days hanging out at SECCA with Lyndon and the SECCA staff in its grand galleries screwing hooks into the walls, putting up photos, mounting some behind Plexiglas, and walking around with a cup of white paint and a brush touching up all the scuff marks on the walls. Walking through a museum or gallery will never be the same after this experience. The only disappointment was that of the dozens of photos I helped hang only one contained a bicycle--a French gendarme at Versailles in 1971.
We found time to visit Stephanie at her museum in the former estate of the R. J. Reynolds family complete with a bowling alley, indoor swimming pool and shooting gallery. Its not too far from Wake Forest University. Stephanie was busy preparing for a Friday evening open house for Wake Forest freshman and their parents. President Truman took a nap on a couch at the house when he attended the opening of Wake Forest. Indonesia's ambassador will be visiting next week. Stephanie will show him around. Thursday night we attended a gallery opening of a local art organization. Many of the artists were in attendance. An art critic from New York helped curate and jury the exhibition, giving a $1,000 award to her choice of the best of the show. The place was jammed with SWAGs--Southern Women Aging Gracefully.
Lyndon and I have worked together for over 15 years at the Telluride Film Festival and have shared a condo a few of those years. He is easily the most beloved of the 500 Telluride staffers and the most genuinely friendly person I have encountered anywhere. He shone as brightly here in Winston-Salem as he does in Telluride. Everyone knows Lyndon at Telluride and it didn't seem much different here on his home turf. He has a kind word for everyone he comes across, friend or stranger. He also knows where to find a bargain for anything and everything. The prize was an all-you-eat Friday night flounder feed for six dollars in the small town of Lexington halfway between Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
As we were having breakfast Thursday morning at a local diner waiting for several of his cronies for their weekly gathering, he asked two elderly women at a nearby table what they had in a small brown paper bag on their table. "It's tomatoes," they said. Lyndon laughed and pulled a similar paper bag out of his sealed thermos showing them he too had smuggled in a couple of slices of tomato for his sausage biscuit, the house special, two for $1.10. Later in the meal as they left, they offered Lyndon an extra slice that they didn't need. For years I've wanted to experience Lyndon on his home turf. It has been as good as I could have imagined. I'm not altogether sorry I've waited this long to visit, as otherwise I wouldn't have been able to share the experience with his charming and delightful bride of seven months Stephanie. Now I can look forward to returning.