Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MS Welcome Center celebrates 40th anniversary with music, food, fun

Visitors who pulled into the Mississippi Welcome Center on northbound Interstate 59 found far more than a rest stop on July 1, 2016. The Center was decorated with flowers and balloons, and a large stage faced the fountain on the front walk as staff and friends celebrated the Center’s fortieth anniversary. Located in Pearl River County just north of Nicholson (Exit 1), the antebellum-style brick building serves travelers heading north from Interstates 10 in Louisiana and eastern Mississippi and 12 in Louisiana.

Supervisor Cindy Poland
Bright sunshine brought high temperatures. The morning opened with a bang as a cannon shot rang out. 

Marlon Ivy, Manager of the Mississippi Welcome Centers
Supervisor Cindy Poland introduced a parade of guests as the ceremony began, beginning with Tom King (Southern District Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Transportation). Marlon Ivy, manager of the Mississippi Welcome Centers, followed King and related a little of the center’s history. The facility opened on July 1, 1976, the third one in the state. Since the first center opened, more than 2,197,000 visitors have signed in across the state, with more than 120,000 of them coming through this branch.

Poland returned to the podium to speak about her staff, thanking them for their work in making visitors to the center feel welcome.

Poland works on decorations as volunteer Harriet Groelich covers the front desk
“We are salespeople selling Mississippi,” said Poland, pointing out the many services they provide. In addition to free coffee and restrooms, the facility offers information on many area attractions and businesses. The staff will provide directions, offer recommendations based on what the visitor indicates as their interests, and will even go so far as to help make reservations for travelers. The center is filled with a variety of maps, magazines and brochures, all given away free to visitors. She noted the pineapple motif on the fountain, a traditional symbol of hospitality and reminded visitors of Mississippi’s nickname as “The Hospitality State.”
Tonya Attaway

Following her presentation, Poland introduced a series of singers to entertain the visitors. Tonya Attaway led, followed by Nicolay Difort with Debra Prather closing the musical portion of the program.

MacKenzie Pharr, 2016 Teen Miss Blueberry
Guest appearances on the grounds by 2016 Teen Miss Blueberry Mackenzie Pharr, the classic cars of Boulevard Cruisers of Picayune, and members of the Mississippi Chapter “O” of the GoldWing Road Riders Association added to the fun of the day. 

MS Chapter "O" GoldWing Road Riders Association
Representatives of the Pat Harrison Waterway District roasted hot dogs for distribution to visitors outside, while other tasty treats were served inside. Many were donated by area businesses, while others were prepared by staff members, including the celebratory cake.
The Welcome Center operates year-round, providing a welcome respite and lots of information to visitors as they enter the state. The ever-changing art displays and historical artifacts assure visitors of an entertaining and information visit. The coffee, facilities, information and friendly greetings are all provided at no charge to the visitors.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Artist Alvin Christopher shares his passion through his art

     Alvin Christopher takes a passion for social justice and channels it into dynamic mixed media art which reminds viewers of how fragile life can be and the importance of treasuring each moment. His dapper appearance belies the struggles of his life.

     “…since I was a child…since I can remember picking up a pencil,” he answers, when asked how long he’s been creating images. He considers his ease with art to be a gift from his mother, who encouraged his earliest attempts. He hasn’t stopped since then, honing his skills and experimenting with a variety of forms.

     A first look at Christopher’s work demands a second one. The compelling images seem to deliver news headlines, as he offers thought-provoking depictions of natural and human-made issues. From his horizontal 3-dimensional depiction of the damage wrought on the Interstate 10 twin span by Hurricane Katrina, to the biology lesson of the words we keep in our heart, Christopher pulls no punches in expressing the pain he has personally experienced and his anger at the pain endured by others.

     His love of mixed media leads him to take things which are not typically considered artistic and turn them into imaginative displays of highly artistic content, recycling found items into finished products with the addition of more traditional art media. While no photograph can do justice to his work, the powerful images beg for repetitive, reflective study. Within each piece, a heartbeat of truth grabs the viewer and demands consideration. With bold colors and startling images, Christopher brings people of all races and perspectives to a common table of humanity.

     Ask a viewer to interpret a given piece and the answer may be shockingly different from your own. Each of the images opens doors to dialogues and discussions of freedom, rights and circumstances. Christopher lays his own heart bare in his work and invites viewers to do the same as they relate to each piece. He refuses to be pigeonholed on a single subject, preferring to use his art to walk on dangerous ground with bold ideas designed to make viewers uncomfortable in complacency.

     Christopher is more than an artist creating strong images. He is also a mentor, reaching out to people marginalized by society and encouraging them to identify their own artistic voice. He also works on commission for custom pieces.

     He was born in Mississippi, grew up in New Orleans in the Irish Channel neighborhood and now makes his home in Slidell, LA. Art moved from a hobby to a vocation after the turmoil of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He hopes to eventually branch out into multimedia work, including film. Supplementing his art income as a cook, he brings an artistic touch to his dishes, as well.

     At present, Alvin Christopher’s work is on display at Artists’ Galleries de Juneau at 2143 First St. in the Olde Towne section of Slidell; Connie’s Depot off of Brownswitch, also in Slidell; and a few other small shops in the community. His art deserves a home in private collections and corporate spaces. This isn’t “pretty” art to hang on a wall and ignore; this is art at its most powerful, demanding involvement and action.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sam Metrigueye delivers scifi music with a story to tell

Sam Metrigueye as The War Doctor, checking out a "friend."
When an attorney branches off into science fiction themed music, a stage name may be in order. Enter “Some Metry Guy.”

With the often slurred pronunciation of the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, the artist was born. Facebook wouldn’t let him use Some Metry Guy as a page name, so he eventually became Sam Metrigueye, singer/songwriter and artist. Sometimes called “That Metry Guy” and sometimes simply “Metry Guy,” his label varies as people try to describe him. His music, however, is a constant – a constant delight, that is. A blend of rock and roll, techno and folk, his tunes sound deceptively simple, even as the clever lyrics transport the listener into fantasy world.

Sam has performed in various venues over the years, including the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus’ annual Chewbacchanal. Armed with a guitar, he brings original lyrics infused with science fiction references, such as “Drunken Nerd Blues.” He’s adaptive, as well, with such alternatives as “Drunken Nerd Blues (Space Cadet Version).”

In the single song, he celebrates the franchises of Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, DC Comics and more. Over time, he’s rewritten lines to accommodate changes in the scifi world, such as updating the number of Doctor Who regenerations. He acknowledges that he gets a thrill when an audience sings along with him on the signature number.

In addition to his Youtube channel, his music is available on his Bandcamp page, NumberOneMusic, iTunes and Spotify.

Besides his music, he expresses his creative side with handcrafted items in his Etsy store. From wall décor to costume pieces for role play, he offers a variety of items for fellow members of scifi fandom.

The multitalented Some Metry Guy provides listeners with thought-provoking music and art, even if they aren’t too sure about his name.

Originally appeared 06/10/2016 at

Bohemian Spirit Designs jewelry from Terrina Russell-Cook captivates

Photo courtesy Terrina Russell-Cook
Artist Terrina Russell-Cook creates music and jewelry with equal ease. Her Bohemian Spirit Designs bring delight to jewelry lovers with her use of curves and movement, while her music belts out the blues with feelings from the soul.

Russell-Cook has been making jewelry since 1974, when she created puka shell necklaces and earrings to sell to tourists along Daytona Beach. Her love for “all things sparkly” began even earlier, as her late grandmother allowed the young Terrina free access to play in her jewelry box.

“I still get just as much of a thrill putting sparkly things together now as I did then,” she says with a laugh.

Many of her pieces hearken to her native American heritage. Her great-grandfather was a member of the Blackfoot tribe. Turquoise stones and traditional motifs honor his memory.
Other pieces feature swirling copper or silver, eliciting images of nature on the move. The evocative shapes have become something of a signature form for her. “For some reason I’m drawn to water and movement, so I try to incorporate as much of that in my work as possible,” Russell-Cook observes.

Although she has a great deal of experience with making jewelry, she continues to learn other techniques. Most recently, she took a course in metalworking from fellow artist Patricia Hart. Now she is expanding her skill set with repoussé, an ancient metalworking technique which involves pressing a relief design into softened metal from the reverse side.

Two outlets in New York and two in the south keep her busy with jewelry-making, but she still finds time to stand up for the creative community. She explains that what artists create has value as an original and takes hours of work. The end result may share some visual similarities with mass-produced products in Big Box stores but the quality of the handmade items soars far above the mundane.

Any conversation with Russell-Cook includes a great deal of humor and laughter. Her delight in life and her joy in her work shines through even serious discussions of technique or style. She admits to sometimes falling in love with a piece she has created and feeling a reluctance in parting with it.

Look for Terrina Russell-Cook’s work at Artists’ Galleries de Juneau in Olde Towne Slidell, LA. Her Bohemian Spirit Designs will inspire.

Originally appeared 6/8/2016 at