The Eye of the Dog Art Center is almost hidden—five miles from Aquarena Springs on the very outskirts of San Marcos—and it’s worth every foot of those five miles to go visit.
This has been the home, art gallery, and creative studio of Billy Ray and Beverly Mangham since 2008. Just one glance around and you will notice that this is a place where creativity and fun happen. A lot.
You will also notice many dogs roaming the grounds. Most of them don’t belong to the Manghams; they belong to various neighbors. But even the dogs here are having fun. They rarely bark, but will roll over on their backs begging you to scratch their bellies or will drop a tennis ball at your feet and look up with pitiful eyes just begging for you to play fetch with them.
The dogs seem to have figured out what you will: nice, fun people live and work here.
The Manghams moved here in 1989 and began building everything by hand, by themselves.
Their home, for example, has no interior walls, two lofts, an outdoor shower and hot tub, and part of the wooden floor came off the ceiling at the legendary Camp Warnecke in New Braunfels. Like all the buildings here, the walls are covered in art and photographs and posters.
Openess is a real theme here. The studios are expansive and open. The gallery has an open floor plan. The front porch is long and wide, open to nature. The kilns are out back, open to the elements.
The kilns are there because this is a clay studio and gallery—artists creating with earth.
“I took a few art classes in college and I fell in love with making stuff,” says Billy Ray who has been working in clay for 40 years. “But at the time, Stephen F. Austin University didn’t have a clay studio so I worked with wood and steel.”
SFA eventually did get a clay studio; he took classes and fell in love with the medium. He went on to get a bachelor’s degree in ceramics from San Jose State University in California, then, later, an MFA from SFA.
“The seductiveness of the material is what attracted me,” he explains. “Plus I knew with pottery I had a chance of making a living, but not being a sculptor.”
He went on to teach for 10 years at Laguna Gloria in Austin, then bought the San Marcos property.
“I quit my job because we really wanted to move back to the country. We bought the land in May and by September we started doing art shows,” Billy Ray recalls. “We did as many as 20 a year.”
But after a while, all that traveling and expense, along with a suffering economy, made shows unattractive.
“We knew we couldn’t do that forever. We thought about alternatives and we’d already been teaching out here so we opened the gallery,” he says.
Other artists like Gary Henderson and Ty Johnson also have studios on the grounds.
They host about three events a year. Next up is the annual Home Show on Thanksgiving weekend that will feature 25 artists and the music of Ponty Bone.
The Dirt Dauber Festival is held each Spring with 30 artists set for 2013. The Summer Salsa Fest is held each June.
Between the shows, Billy Ray, Beverly, and other top artists give classes and workshops in clay, mixed-media, screen printing, and other media.
Beverly has this aspect down pat. She’s conducted workshops and seminars throughout the U.S. and in Canada. She’s a member of the Utah Arts Council and travels there to do many workshops every year. Her award-winning mixed-media work can be seen in several galleries and many art collections throughout the country.
Among upcoming workshops are Expressive Hands and Feet (November 3), Art as Dog/Life As Art (November 10-11), Screen Printing (December 1-2), Toys You Love/Sculptures You Build (December 8), and Figurative Mixed Media/Dolls For Adults (December 9).
And Billy Ray is also a musician. Once part of the band Enchanting Chanters, he recently released a CD of original and cover blues songs. The songs reflect Billy Ray’s personality, but the one with the most toe-tapping fun is Blessing of the Pork, a paean to barbecue.
These days, Billy Ray’s focus in clay is the process known as scraffitto—applying a colored slip to clay and cutting through that layer to the clay body. His clay sculptures of people are almost like cartoons, and Billy Ray captures distinctive, whimsical expressions on all of them. It’s impossible not to smile when looking at them, just like it’s impossible not to smile when roaming around the Art Center grounds and buildings.
“We wanted a place for people to come and create,” Billy Ray says. He and Beverly have done that more.
Eye of the Dog is located at 405 Valley View West Road in San Marcos. For more information, call 512-754-8171 or visit the website at eotdac.com. Note: Except for special events, the gallery is not open for regular hours, so please call for an appointment.