Art and Soul

I met a kind woman when I was about 22 years old or so. That’s funny. All my stories seem to begin when I was in my early 20s. I guess that’s the way people are as they get on into middle age and then their senior years. It takes time to reflect on those events, those people, that helped shape you into the person you become.

Chris Broussard is one such person. She was that lady I met over 20 years ago. She came to Gleason Street because there was an issue with the higher ups in the ink and paper business. I was caught in the middle a lot of times in those early days. I didn’t know what was going on, but everybody thought I did, and I became a target for misdirected ire. Heck, I was still just a kid who was more concerned about the quality of the next Lord of the Rings movie than I was about chambers of commerce and tax millages and arrest reports and squabbling between police juries and the sheriff and all those stuffy adult things that guys in neckties worry about.

 In a lot of ways, I’m still that guy, but I digress. Neck ties are voluntary nooses. Moving on.

So, Mrs. Broussard comes in and we talk. I don’t remember what the issue was. Way too many winters have passed since then, but I quickly came away with the impression this woman was a lot like me. In fact, I said, that’s me in a few years. 

I was wrong. I have a lot of the same beliefs, but I have never come close to making the lasting impact on young people and their communities as Chris Broussard has. 

I’m writing about her today because she’s got an art show going on right now at City Art Works in Downtown Minden. Dubbed “Art and Soul,” the event features a lifetime of art from Chris and her late husband Rick. 

Anyone who knows Chris, knows how much she and Rick loved one another. Their social media pages have given a glimpse into the lives of a couple who never moved out of the honeymoon stage. They never stopped dating. And I like to think Rick still referred to Chris as his “bride” rather than just his wife. Point of fact, fellas – if you always think of the lady in your life as your “bride” rather than your wife, it’s much easier to keep the love and romance alive. 

They traveled. She painted. He took pictures. They captured the world through their art. They told stories in frozen moments on strips of film and strokes from a brush.

They lived. They laughed. They loved. They lived the marriage story we all want to live. 

In the years during all of this, Rick worked as an engineer and Chris worked as a savior of souls. I don’t mean she was in the pulpit on Sunday mornings. Rather she helped spread her passion for art via the founding of Cultural Crossroads, the opening of The Farm, the overseeing of the annual Spring Arts Festival, and the hundreds – nay, thousands – of hours she invested in introducing art to the young and rekindling the love of the arts in the hearts of adults of all ages.  That’s what I mean by saving souls. God is art. God is creativity. God is the original and greatest artist. To create is to give life.

I fell out of touch with her for quite a while only for us to reconnect at a low point in my life. You see,  I just couldn’t create. For a long, long time I just couldn’t do what an artist is born to do. 

And then Chris spoke to me one random day. Not in person. Digitally. Just as good in today’s world. Maybe even better sometimes. I’m not going to share what she said to me, but it was exactly what I needed to hear exactly when I needed to hear it. 

And then I could create once more. And I haven’t stopped since.

That’s what Chris Broussard does. She touches the hearts of the young and the old. She makes a difference even when she has no idea she’s doing so. 

And the world is a much better place for having her in it.

The  reception for her art show was this past Wednesday, but the show hours are from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 10 to 4 on Saturdays.

If you get a chance, go up to City Art Works in Downtown Minden at some point before the show closes on March 31. See what a lifetime of art looks like. I like to think that’s what Heaven is. Not streets of gold or rivers of milk and honey. No clouds or cherubs playing the harp. Just art. Creation. Love. Kindness.

To me, that is God. To me, that is Heaven.

(Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been recognized five times for excellence in opinion writing by the Louisiana Press Association.)

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