I wasn’t sure what to expect this past Sunday when I entered Candlelight Coffeehouse for the annual LOVE & indepenDANCE brunch. But I knew I was in for a treat — if Gene Elder’s energetic email correspondence was any indication, this afternoon was going to be unlike any other.
Co-founder Kitty Williams filled me in on how exactly the event came to be, even though she and Elder playfully argued that neither knew the exact beginnings of LOVE & indepenDANCE. According to Williams, the duo “met in a Three Stooges kind of way.” They’d plan to meet at Liberty Bar to discuss adapting one of Elder’s books into a play but kept missing one another. They finally connected and discussed, among other things, setting aside a few days in February that honor not only love, but everything else — independence, Black History Month, and President’s Day.
“The idea just came to me,” Elder said. And, of course, one day just wouldn’t do: Elder decided on an 18-day celebration. “The days between February 14 and March 2 are now the season of LOVE & indepenDANCE,” announces a typical Elder email. “Starting with Valentine’s Day and ending with Texas Independence Day.”
The concept’s primary focus is protesting the commercialization of Valentine’s Day. Williams laughed at the irony of this when she found herself surrounded by little gifts brought by the 20 people in attendance Sunday. (The out-of-the-ordinary presents included Alamo animal crackers, pencils, Davy Crockett postcards, Hello Kitty marshmallow pops, and old VHS tapes — didn’t we mention this was an eccentric bunch?)
While I sat back and watched the camaraderie between the group of writers, intellectuals, artists, and musicians, I felt like I was part of something really unique. From San Antonio Museum of Art’s David S. Rubin to arts patron Dolly Miller, attendees chatted between bites of shrimp quiche and bagels about upcoming projects and old times.
As I spoke with honoree Robert Rehm, I was reminded of the tight-knit group of artists in San Antonio that has come together to support the playwright, artist, and director following an accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Williams could not have said it better in her toast to Rehm: “This man is courageous, creative … you’ve come into my life and made `it` richer.”
Rehm laughed, “I feel lots of LOVE and indepenDANCE.” He has been paralyzed for nearly three years but it hasn’t stopped him from contributing to the arts. In August 2007, he had his first visual art show, Hot Wheels and Hot Lips, which consisted of pieces of work he calls “mouth art.” Using a pen similar to a stylus, Rehm paints and also uses the wheels from his chair as a brush of sorts.
He also expressed excitement for events he’s involved in this year, including Luminaria Arts Night, Cornyation, and his annual neighborhood Easter parade.
In addition to the LOVE and indepenDANCE brunch, Elder also planned an arts fair this weekend at Joan Grona Gallery featuring 10 artists. The work presented will be odd, admitted Elder, from found objects to nostalgic photography.
What does the future hold for LOVE and indepenDANCE? Elder wants to see more people attend the brunch and hopes that the festival will grow into a larger event. “I wanted everyone to join in. I want it to be another alternative to Fiesta,” said Elder. “It should probably grow and be more gregarious.” •
Artist’s Fair 2008
11am-6pm, Feb 21-22
Joan Grona Gallery
112 Blue Star
Don’t bother Googling LOVE & indepenDANCE — you won’t find a thing. Gene Elder’s 18-day invention is a bit on-the-fly, but Elder did provide the Current with a history of past honorees and themes:
2002: The first year of Love & IndepenDANCE was dedicated to the deaf community.
2003: Dedicated to Lawrence vs. Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court, a landmark case that struck down the sodomy law that had made homosexual sex in Texas a criminal offense.
2004: Celebrated the 20th anniversary of the San Antonio Museum of Art’s time-capsule exhibition, where artworks by 100 San Antonio artists were encased, to be opened in the year 2181.
2005: The theme was The Return of the King, honoring trilogy artists and New Zealand.
2006: The year of the wedding-cake liberation front, honoring 1,200 British same-sex couples who scheduled ceremonies to wed in Northern Ireland, England, and Wales, and also the film Brokeback Mountain.
2007: Honored the band Pink Martini.