Carol Light’s contributions to arts and culture in Georgetown were recognized Nov. 8, 2016 in a proclamation at a City Council meeting that acknowledged her career and lifetime of service to the arts.
Mayor Dale Ross remarked on Light’s contribution as an artist at the meeting. “Carol Light is a very talented artist and a wonderful representative for Georgetown’s strong arts community. She has helped to build the art community here over the decades through her teaching and encouragement of other artists, and she has enriched life in Georgetown by sharing the inspiring body of work she has created in her 45+ years in Georgetown as a professional artist. She is a person who inspires creativity and joy through the arts,” said Mayor Ross.
In 2015, Light was selected as one of just a handful of local artists commissioned to create artwork to be exhibited in the Sheraton Georgetown Hotel and Conference Center, which opened in July. Light collaborated with Sue Bishop Spahn on a 14-foot-long painting called “Grazing the Fault” that hangs now behind the reception desk in the upscale hotel. (See page B1 of the July 31, 2016 Williamson County Sun for a profile and a picture of “Grazing the Fault.”)
Light’s art has been exhibited internationally, and has won awards in a number of juried shows. Her work was carried by Spicewood Gallery and Design Studio in Austin, and by Hill Design + Gallery in Georgetown. She works primarily in watercolor and mixed media.
Light, 86, says, “I am still making art, mostly mixed media lately. I work on paper and canvas, and I love handmade papers and collage. It’s so much fun to be in the creative process—it’s a different world. It transports you like books and reading do, but putting color down on paper is a special joy for me.”
Light is a third-generation floral designer who worked as a young woman in Austin for the family business, Belding Flowers, which served the needs of customers like Lyndon Baines Johnson and John Connally. She worked as a floral designer until 1976. When asked how she was first inspired to take up art, she said, “We were not taught much art in high school, but my parents owned the retail flower shop in the Driskill Hotel in Austin, and you learn a lot of design in the floral industry.”
In addition to that on-the-job training, Light attended Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas and also The University of Texas at Austin. She left college in order to study art more intensively, and she took summer courses at Louisiana Tech University in Rustin, Louisiana.
Light and her husband and sons moved to Georgetown in 1969, into a house she still occupies. She works in a studio on the property that was rebuilt from the remains of a barn with a sweeping view of the countryside.
In 1980, she became an art instructor and she continued to teach art until 1996. “Most artists,” she said, “have to supplement their income. Artists are trying to say something in a nonverbal way….while you are practicing and working on those creative goals, you have to support yourself, so I took up teaching—then I found out what a joy it was. I ended up travelling and teaching all over the state. It was so inspiring to teach other artists and see them develop.”
In June, her farm was the site for a “Curated Picnic” for creatives organized by Light with graphic designer and artist Nick Ramos, owner of Georgetown graphic design firm Graphismo. Ramos says, “Carol is a pioneer, an inspiration, a true guiding light. The never-ending desire to learn keeps her young. She has mentored endless numbers of artists, citizens, and children in our community. She was there at the beginning of the Williamson County Art Guild. Her words, kindness, talent, and smile are a source of energy that will inspire anyone that crosses her path.”
In addition to her teaching, Light has worked in other ways to foster local creativity. She has a history of involvement in local arts groups, having served as president of the Williamson County Art Guild and judging art exhibits, as well, including the 2012 Art Hop, a statewide competitive exhibit hosted by the Georgetown Art Center.
After receiving his doctorate in music from Harvard, Georgetown native Ellsworth Peterson realized his dream of coming home and building a career that has enriched the lives of students, residents and visitors through music.
His many contributions to the arts were acknowledged by a mayoral proclamation naming Jan. 24 as Ellsworth Peterson Day. The recognition took place at the beginning of the Jan. 24 City Council meeting.
“I don’t think there is anyone as influential as Ellsworth Peterson in terms of the arts and culture scene in Georgetown,” Library Services Director Eric Lashley said. “Georgetown is fortunate that Ellsworth continued to contribute to arts and culture well after he retired from Southwestern University. This recognition is well deserved.”
Peterson, who was born Nov. 22, 1933, attended Georgetown schools where he was taught by well-known first grade teacher Annie Purl before attending Southwestern University.
“After a two-year period of military service—I played oboe in the Eighth Army Band in Korea—I attended Union Theological Seminary in New York, where I received a master’s degree in sacred music, and Harvard University, where I received my doctorate,” Peterson said.
He returned to Georgetown in 1965 as the Margaret Root Brown Professor of Fine Arts at Southwestern University, where he taught for 37 years. He has also served as an organist for Georgetown’s First United Methodist Church and university organist at Southwestern.
Peterson smiles when he is asked about changes in Georgetown’s arts scene over his lifetime.
“Things have changed in Georgetown,” he said. “The coming of Sun City has brought more people with time to help in the arts, and just the way the town has grown overall means we can do so much more now.”
Peterson has been organizing public arts events in Georgetown since 1982, including five Brown Symposia at Southwestern University focusing on the works of Mahler, Britten, Shostakovich and Messiaen as well as the arts and culture of Thailand.
Peterson also established a program at Southwestern that brought music professors from Thailand to teach students to play Thai Classical music.
Peterson traveled to Thailand seven times, teaching Western music to students in the Thai language. His facility with the Thai language led to some translation work in addition to including Thai music in the SU curriculum.
“Hearing our SU students playing Thai instruments was one of the highlights of my career,” he said.
Peterson retired from Southwestern in 2002.
“Ellsworth Peterson is one of the most significant members of our arts and culture community in Georgetown,” said Laura Sewell, Sarofim School of Fine Arts Administration manager at Southwestern University, and member of the City of Georgetown Arts & Culture Board. “It seems that Ellsworth’s constant motivator is how to give Georgetown the very best in culture through music. In so many ways his life is about how to make us all better as a community and we cannot be more grateful for his dedication to Georgetown and all of us.”
After retiring from Southwestern, Peterson worked to create the annual Georgetown Festival of the Arts, which arose from conversations with colleagues over coffee at Cianfrani Coffee Co. about ways to bring people who love classical music together.
He has now served as artistic director of thirteen festivals each of which focused on a major composer or group of composers. Each festival includes multiple concerts and lectures in various locations throughout Georgetown, including a free community concert in San Gabriel Park that is followed by a fireworks show.
“I’ve enjoyed being involved with the festival over the years very much,” Peterson said. “One of the biggest thrills of all was seeing student musicians from Georgetown High School and East View High School performing Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’ with Round Rock Symphony Orchestra musicians during the 2013 concert in the park.”
He said he stays in touch with several former high school students, many of whom have gone on to become professional musicians.
In addition to continuing work with the festival, Peterson is teaching a Senior University class this spring about the composers featured in this year’s festival Great Britons, which will focus on three British composers. He also writes the program notes for Georgetown Symphony Society concert programs.
“I love teaching, and this gives me the opportunity to do that,” he said. “I enjoy doing research and having the opportunity to meet people and really try to give people with an interest in classical music these opportunities.”
Peterson has been the recipient of several awards, including the 2009 Community Arts Leadership Award presented by the Performing Arts Alliance of Georgetown, the 2010 Martha Diaz Hurtado College Town Award presented by Southwestern University and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and of the 2010 Future Trails Award presented by the Chisholm Trail Communities Foundation.