We had the good fortune of connecting with Jane Cornish Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jane Cornish, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My work life balance has definitely changed over the years! I’ve always considered myself to be an artist, creating art from a young age having been exposed to the process by my mother who was a painter. I sold my work from time to time while focusing mostly on a career as a department store buyer until after the birth of our son. From there I painted from home while raising two kids with my husband. I also painted faux finishes and murals on interior walls and taught art classes for part time jobs. When our two children were in middle school, a breast cancer diagnosis along with surgery and chemotherapy entered the picture, and my art took a more abstracted, dimensional turn, functioning as a kind of therapy and release. After our children graduated from college and moved out of the house, I ultimately earned a MFA in studio art, and currently teach art workshops and am part of the adjunct faculty at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Cancer has reared its head again in recent months, but it hasn’t slowed down my teaching, exhibiting, or art making. Now at age 64 I think about balance more in terms of time, and how I want to divide later-in-life years to relationships with family and friends, work, volunteerism, art, travel, and making a positive difference in the world.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art and life have evolved through the years. What started as paintings of portraits and landscapes with a more formal, less conceptual expression, has morphed into figurative abstractions or work that references the environment. I now use a greater variety of materials beyond oil paint: found objects, gauze, twine, plaster, wax, and other media. Political changes, concerns for global warming, and personal cancer experiences have made me look at art differently– both as a viewer and as an artist. I’m most proud of the paintings, wall reliefs, and sculptures that may encourage a viewer to dwell and to self examine their lives and the world; subject matter that speaks to human rights and to the emollient effects of an open vista where we are free to move. I studied journalism, art, art history and philosophy as an undergrad, later earning masters in liberal arts and in fine arts., That study fostered a knowledge base, skill set, and appreciation for art that I’ll always cherish. It’s given me employment as a university adjunct and workshop instructor. There were times where it was challenging to juggle family responsibilities while studying, working, surviving three cancer diagnoses, and making art, but I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the emotional and financial support of my husband to share the load. Each area of life informs and augments the other, making for a full existence.
Both physically and metaphorically, my goal is to leave a mark thorough art, work, volunteerism, and relationships that make a positive difference.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The Dallas area has so much to offer. I’d introduce my friend to a variety of venues, activities, and people (though with an arts bent since that’s my field!) so they could get a feel for the diversity and richness of the region. It’s definitely hard to hone in efficiently time-wise, but here goes:

Day One: Lucky’s Cafe in the Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs area for a hearty diner breakfast with the friendliest waiters around. Next a visit to the Design District–Dragon Street, Levee Street, and nearby streets that offer a variety of galleries such as Conduit, Craighead Green, Cris Worley Fine Arts, Holly Johnson, the Dallas Contemporary, AOI Home, and more. Gallery staff are super knowledgeable and happy to talk about the art. Ascension coffee provides a caffeine pick-me-up. We’d then head to the Meddelsome Moth– with a cool sculpture out front by James Surls– for a beer from their extensive selection and to Malai Kitchen for Thai food. Final nibbles and a listen to local musicians at The Library, housed in the historic Melrose hotel on Oak Lawn would provide a great end to the day.

Day Two: A walk around Clyde Warren Park to watch children (and adults) play under its sprinklers, and to partake in a terrific array of food trucks is super fun. A quick jaunt to The Arts District to see the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Green Foundation, and the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is an enriching experience. Perhaps an orchestral concert at the Morton H. Meyerson designed by I. M. Pei, or a musical at the Winspear Opera House would be in order. A trip to the School Book Depository and Holocaust Museum in the the historic West End would be a most worthwhile visit. Later that evening we would either catch a Mavericks basketball game at the American Airlines Center or head to the iconic landmark Reunion Tower for dinner and a revolving panoramic view of downtown Dallas and beyond.

Day Three: The Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff has amazing restaurants, murals, and charming vintage shops in its historic neighborhood. The Texas Theatre, the first theatre in the area constructed for talking pictures and hideaway for Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963, would be a fascinating place to see a show. The fresh local ingredients at Bolsa restaurant, and Norma’s cafe fare are super delicious. Not far is the Dallas Zoo, a Dallas staple since 1888. Heading north from the zoo is the stunning Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge by Spanish artist Calatrava, which leads to the Trinity Groves area with its many eateries and tin roof buildings. RO2 Art Gallery on Bataan and in the Cedars has an array of interesting work from emerging and established artists alike. The Farmers Market near the Cedars and Old City Park provides a great spot for produce and eats before heading home for the day.

Day Four: We would start the day with a brisk walk on the Katy Trail before a trek to the Latino Cultural Center with its current Hecho en Dallas exhibition. Further east is Fair Park with its incredible Texas Centennial Art Deco Buildings and African American Museum. If the Texas State Fair, is underway, we would check out the amazing handmade quilts, autos, animals, Ferris Wheel, soul food from Pearlie’s Southern Kitchen, Butterfly House, Big Tex, Fletcher’s corny dogs, the midway, a football game at the Cotton Bowl, and people watching! In east Dallas is the beautiful 66-acre gardens at the Arboretum, and the Bath House Cultural Center is home to many amazing art exhibitions, theatrical performances, and peaceful views of White Rock Lake. If time allows, we’d arrange to see some of the many nearby art studios and visit with the artists. Lastly we would stop at either E Bar Tex-Mex for a Meltdown margarita and nachos, or Deep Ellum, one of the city’s first commercial districts for African American and European immigrants, with its renowned live music heritage.

Day Five: A break from city life would necessitate a trip to East Texas with its cattle ranches and piney woods– definitely a more relaxed country existence. Along I-30 near Campbell is the friendly service at Tin Cup Tavern for terrific country music and BBQ. The town of Miller Grove provides a tasty fish fry on Friday nights. Sulphur Springs has an amazing courthouse and a music-fed walkable downtown experience. Texas A&M University-Commerce has an incredible Planetarium and Observatory, University Art Gallery, and more. Longview offers the Longview Museum of Fine Arts and great vistas from Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard and Winery. Stopping at gas stations along the way are some of the best taquerias around. While in East Texas, I’d also take my friend to visit family– homemade pralines, hospitality, and lively conversations guaranteed!

Day Six: We would explore the more expensive side of Dallas at Highland Park Village– the first shopping center in the U.S., with its many chic boutiques and restaurants. the beautiful campus at Southern Methodist University touts a strong sports and academic tradition, along with the excellent Meadows Museum–home to one of the best collections of Spanish art outside of Spain, where we would schedule an informative docent-led tour. Also on campus is the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Cafe 43 is an excellent restaurant within the library space with art from the venerable Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden, in existence since 1953. Movies, shopping, and amazing art from the Nasher family prevails at the acclaimed NorthPark Center mall. A walking art tour– information available at the security office near Dillard’s department store– is really impressive. At the end of the day we would definitely check out Eataly while at the mall, a wonderful Italian culinary experience.

Day Seven: 30 minutes away is Fort Worth– gateway to the west–with its superb cultural sites. Just some of the many places to visit would include the Bass Performance Hall, Casa Manana, Texas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, The Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Fort Worth Zoo, Kimbell Art Museum, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (designed by Tadao Ando), Amon Carter Museum of American Art, William Campbell Gallery, and Artspace 111. My friend would definitely have to pick a couple of venues from the long list. Music at honky tonk Billie Bobs and the Scat Jazz Lounge in the city’s walkable downtown is always fun. We would also head to Joe T. Garcia’s or Reata Restaurant for great food. Additionally, a burgeoning area to eat, shop, and play can be had at the revitalized South Main Street district– definitely worth a visit.

At that point, my exhausted friend would return home with a heightened appreciation for Dallas and North Texas!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate my trajectory in life to family, friends, and teachers. My parents provided a nomadic, supportive home for my brother and I, where we were exposed to many fascinating places and much art. My husband has encouraged my endeavors and medical challenges through the years with unstinting, loving positivity, as have our two children who have gone on to make us proud. Friendships are a sustaining force of fun, sharing, and meaningful conversations. Teachers along the way, including students from whom I’ve learned much, have equipped me with knowledge, skills, and curiosity, allowing me to develop as an individual in this wonderful world.

Website: www.janecornishsmithart.com

Instagram: jcsart5555

Facebook: Jane Cornish Smith

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