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Meet Bert Long
Some artists develop their talents as children. Some are formally educated, guided by instructors in technique and theory. World-renowned contemporary artist Bert L. Long, Jr., however, found his art in the Houston Public Library.
Long’s work can be seen in museums across the globe and is sought after by collectors; but his road to becoming a successful artist was anything but direct. “All the people in this neighborhood I grew up with are either dead or in jail,” he said when we interviewed him last year in his small, stylish house in Houston’s Fifth Ward. During his lifetime, he has had to overcome a childhood heavy with responsibility and hardship. He picked cotton, washed dishes and served in the Marine Corps.
In fact, it wasn’t until after his military service that he picked up a brush, displaying his early work in the lobbies of Las Vegas hotels where he worked as a chef. He knew, however, that to paint full time he’d need more than what one high-school art course had taught him, and so he turned to the Houston Public Library’s Central facility.
“I checked out 14 art books at a time,” Long recalled. “It was the maximum they would allow.”
Long studied what other artists had done. He pored over the work of the masters, developing new techniques and knowledge. And his work began to sell. Today, Long is a highly respected artist. His story is an inspiring one, and in many ways, it all started in the Houston library.
One of Long’s latest works, a 30- foot by 7-foot mural can be seen in the Houston Public Library’s Looscan Neighborhood Library at 2510 Willowick. Bert Long passed away, February of 2013. His creative spirit continues to inspire us at HPL, in Houston and around the world.
Meet Faye Powers
Faye Powers wanted to cook for a living – and she was a good cook. A friend of her husband’s once jokingly told her, “look, if it doesn’t work out for you two, you can marry me – just for the red beans.”
But being a good cook and cooking for a living are two different things. Powers had no formal training – no chef’s school. Yet her dream was to work for herself as a caterer, and while she didn’t know exactly how to make that happen, she did know where to start: the library. She headed to the Scenic Woods Regional Library on Homestead Road near her home in North Houston and looked to librarian Jane McNair for help.
Powers started her research by poring over books on home-catering businesses and the rules and regulations of operating a healthy commercial kitchen. She studied City of Houston regulations at the library, and eventually moved on to videos that showed her everything from proper chopping techniques to advanced food presentation. Armed with new skills and knowledge, Powers launched Faye Powers Culinary Creations. That was seven years ago, and today it’s just Faye’s – a successful business that caters events from big bank conferences to large weddings.
Powers’ relationship with the library didn’t stop once her business got off the ground. The Houston library remains a source of recipes to inspire her own creations and for business advice on issues like controlling costs, staffing smarter and using purchased food more efficiently.
The passion for cooking, talent and creativity – those came from Faye Powers. But the confidence and insights she needed to turn them into a career? That came from the library.
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