MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 31, 2013

Cherokee artist uses job as cultural platform

Nelson sees museum’s gift shop as way to connect with public

(Continued)

A four-legged

travel companion

One buddy sure to be by Mary Beth Nelson’s side is Mr. Beanz, a toy Yorkshire terrier. Nelson said he likes to go with her to art shows.

“He’s my travel buddy, my art show buddy, and my baby,” she said. “And he’s more popular than me. At the art shows all the artists know him. He gets a short haircut with a Mohawk and I usually dye the Mohawk with different colors and he has Cherokee ribbon shirts.”

Some artist friends have even made accessories for the pup, she said.

Nelson got Mr. Beanz about four years ago, she said.

“Mary (Robinson) and I had been looking for a dog, and his picture was in the paper,” she said. “A teacher in Wagoner was moving and didn’t have time for him. Yorkies need so much attention. Mr. Beanz wants to play. He wants to do anything you’re doing.”

Nelson recalled meeting the teacher and the Yorkie pup in Wagoner.

“He was wild and running all over the place,” she said. “But when I got him to me, he was just licking me.”

The dog has grown into his new setting quite well, she said.

According to Nelson, Mr. Beanz is a good traveler:

“He has his own seat, his throne, on the center console in my truck. He sits there and watches everything. He tells me when we need to stop. He also goes camping with me. We went to the Chickasaw Art Show last year, and he was real good.”

He even has a Facebook page, Nelson said.  “Every time I’d go on Facebook, people would ask how he was doing.”

A low point

to rise above

A house fire in winter 2009 almost dashed Nelson’s dream.

“We lived three miles from Greenleaf State Park, and it was beautiful,” she said. “I had my studio all set up. I was doing prints and going to different galleries and shops. I could pretty much do it full time.”

Nelson’s home and studio were destroyed by fire Jan. 28, 2009. She said she had been away, picking up her son in Sapulpa when she heard her house was on fire. She said the house was burned to the ground by the time they got there.

A newspaper story at the time said she lost about 14 original works and all her prints.

“I lost not only my computers, I lost my show equipment. I lost my supplies. I lost everything,” she said. “I never was able to get back to that point. I had to go back to work and, like everyone else, I’m living paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes I could do shows and sometimes I can’t.”

People from Nelson’s church, family and artist friends helped support her after the fire.

“I did have people donate brushes, paint and canvases,” she said. “But the show equipment, I still don’t have. I’m just now getting space set up for a studio. I have a rent house.”

After the fire, Nelson went to live at the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico.

“It was quite an experience to learn about another culture, to be accepted into their culture,” she said. “They accepted me and my family and we participated in their traditional activities.”

Nelson returned to Muskogee last year.

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