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A story for Friday's Selma Times-Journal. I wrote the article and shot the photos for it.

*****

By Megan Lavey
Times-Journal Desk Editor

They call him the Tin Man.

He is famous for taking bits of metal and wood, considered to be scrap junk to most of the world, and turning it into art.

His work-roughened hands are never still. Even as he discussed his life and art on Thursday at the Striplin Performing Arts Center, he used a pair of clippers to twist and turn pieces of discarded electrical wire into a tyrannosaurus rex.



He is surrounded by dozens of his works, on display through March at the performing arts center.

Charlie Lucas, his real name, was born in 1951. He’s grown up among a family of artisans Ñ quiltmakers, blacksmiths, gunsmiths and basketmakers.

He grew up in a time when he built houses and white men did not allow him to read the blueprints. He was told by a teacher that art was for “white folks” and he needed to learn a trade.

Lucas left school instead.

He worked until he fell from the back of a truck in 1984 and was permanently disabled. Then, he focused on his art.

He’s been creating things ever since he was a child. While many children received shiny new toys wrapped in cardboard boxes and shiny plastic, Lucas, one of 14 children, made his own.

“Each time I wanted a new toy, I’d go out and make one,” he explained.

He made all sorts of toys Ñ wagons, weapons, bicycles and all sorts of things. He made them out of things that people threw away: bits of metal, plastic and boards. Some called it crawling through the garbage. But Lucas thought it was the “coolest thing you could do.”

As he grew, his work grew to encompass much more. The pieces of art told the story of Lucas’ childhood, of his great-granddaddy who taught him how to weave baskets and all sorts of things.

Lucas, as a child, watched as his “Granddaddy” and his friends made jewelry and other crafts in his home. At his granddaddy’s house, every day was like the Fourth of July for the young boy as he drank in the sights of the older men making jewelry, whittling and creating all sorts of country crafts.

“Back then, they didn’t allow me to have pocketknives and stuff,” Lucas recalled. “But, I would watch them strip the wood down and turn it into all kinds of things.”

It was the best education possible for a budding young artist, and Lucas stood in awe of their talents. But, he adds, if you wrote their names on the side of the wall, those older men would have no idea what the scribbling said.

Now, not only is Lucas teaching others how to recycle trash into art, but he is also showing how man can recycle himself through things such as education.

His art has brought Lucas back to the education he walked away from so long ago as a child. He attends classes at the Selma-Dallas Public Library, not to get a GED he says, but to know how to read better. It has opened new worlds for him.

“It’s kind of like a kid in the candy store,” Lucas said. “You take the wrappers off the candy and you kind of lick off a few pieces. It’s been a good thing for me.”

Instead of a regular education, Lucas grew up with a street one. He knew many, many things, he says, but just could not write them down.

Said Lucas, “I’m a plumber, I’m a electrician. I can build a car engine and I can even build a house. But, I can’t read the blueprints.”

This type of education was common more than a century ago. Lucas can walk outside and do any type of work with his hands and it makes him feel comfortable. But when he is asked to deal with the paper side of things, he admits that he gets somewhat lost.

But when he talks about his different trades to friends and acquaintances, they reply that even with a fancy college education, they still don’t know how to do all the things that Charlie Lucas can.
Feb. 10th, 2003 06:58 pm

Squee!

savvyliterate: (I knew it!)
http://www.newspagedesigner.com/portfolios/portfolio1.php?UserID=1835

This the link to my portfoilo on News Page Designer, a website where designers can share their front pages and critique them against others. I was showing it to a friend of mine tonight, who is the editor of a 30,000 circulation weekly in Tampa. He was impressed! Squee!!

Then, I noticed there had been two comments left on my Columbia front. I checked them out. One said this:

"Megan, one of the best-designed papers in the country is the Jacksonville, IL, Journal-Courier, my old paper. Circulation is around 20,000. The State Journal Register in Springfield is continually knocking on their door trying to steal the market. Circulation and staff size aren't the key to good design. Creativity, good typography and balance are. Have the guts to take over the whole page for the big story. Empower yourself to be a great designer and you will be. Learn from what's good here and in the SND annual. Your work shows promise. Don't let the bosses or your perception of what the bosses want keep you down. "

Double squee!! Here's the other comment:

"There's good stuff about working at small papers, too. Foremost among them, I think, is the ability to effect change, which I think you're doing at the Times-Journal. The last time I seriously took a good look at the paper was last spring while I was waiting around in the AU journalism department for some reason or another. What I see in your portfolio, in contrast with what I saw then, is a really big improvement. "

TRIPLE SQUEE!! I'm sooooo happy! I think I'll go float around on cloud nine for awhile.
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Last night, I played 20 questions with a new friend, Brian. It started out pretty simply, we talked about siblings, movies, music, etc. Finally, in an effort to be different, I asked him what his favorite period of history was and why (incidentally, it was the Renassance. Mine is the medieval period.)

Suddenly, he asked me what my opinion of video games was and why. So, I answered, and kept talking to clarify my position on it. When I realized I had written a short essay on the issue, I immediately apologized for it. `

He didn't mind. In fact, as he commented, he did it on purpose. He was taught that in college as a way to get people to answer questions. He said he got several quotes from me.

Gotcha. Or actually, he got me.

I have always admired the writing of my managing editor, Dale James. He always managed to touch that inner core of a person and pick up on all the right nuances that enabled him to bring life to a story. I'm envious of that ability. But, he told me, it's all in the ability to ask the right questions and to truly ask people what they are intrested in hearing about. I've always wanted to tail him on a story to find out how he was able to do that.

Well, last night, Brian showed me. And for that, I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

In my interview of a lady who wrote a cookbo'ok today, I looked at her and asked, "So, what was the first thing you ever cooked?"

Her expression looked dreamy as she recounted her experiments in creating potato chips and French fries as an eight-year-old.

Dale showed me how to take an ordinary story and to make it extraordinary by focusing on the people, not the event. And Brian taught me (and didn't even know it.) how to ask the right questions.

And because of them, I'm a better journalist.

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Meg

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