Shining national light on DowagiacPublished 5:13pm Tuesday, June 5, 2012
For more than 18 years, Thelda Mathews has invested time and dedication to the arts in Dowagiac … and it shows.
Beyond the 14 sculptures that grace prominent spots in the city limits, Mathews served as president of the visual arts committee for the Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival. It was her efforts in bringing public sculpture to Dowagiac that took her and her husband, Fred, to Loveland, Colo., May 19 to accept the National Sculpture Society’s prestigious Sculpture House Annual Award. The national award, created in 2002 by Sculpture House President Bruner Barrie, aims to recognize those who contribute and encourage American sculpture.
“It was an exciting weekend,” Mathews said. “I was really honored to be there and experience that.”
In her acceptance speech, Mathews thanked a host of Dowagiac people for helping her efforts to bring sculpture to the city. Those thanked included the Dogwood Fine Arts Board, members of the visual arts committee, Dowagiac’s city officials and, especially, the donors of the sculptures whose generosity to a town the size of Dowagiac is unparalleled. She also went on to thank her employer of 25 years, K and M Machine Fabricating of Cassopolis and residents of Dowagiac. She ended her remarks with a phrase from Mayor Don Lyons’ father, Dale.
“LIBTYFI (pronounced libtoufee): leave it better than you found it,” Mathews. “That is how I prefer to be remembered for my work with sculpture in Dowagiac.”
While the reception of the award shined a light on Dowagiac, Mathews decided to go even further in her effort to bring more national recognition to the city.
“Back in March, I saw a little blurb about Reader’s Digest looking for ‘America’s Most Interesting Town,’” Mathews said Monday. “That piqued my interest because I think we do have a really special town.”
The contest asked readers to help find America’s most interesting town by writing an article that fit into one of the 11 categories offered. Mathews made a submission about the rarity of the Dogwood Festival into the “most interesting town event” category.
“The author will receive a cash prize, but what I really loved is that the winning town will be featured on the cover of Reader’s Digest,” Mathews said.
While the contest’s judging is not yet complete, Mathews said she wanted to highlight not just the festival, but Dowagiac, also.
“I originally wanted to enter an article about Dowagiac as a whole into the ‘most interesting town’ category, but there was too much I wanted to include, and I was only able to write 2,000 characters,” Mathews said.
“I’ve lived here for 60 years,” Mathews said. “It’s a friendly and beautiful town; as perfect as any place can be.”