Artfeel Blog

A contemporary interactive arts experience based on public art in The Woodlands

Rain Dancing

Posted March 6, 2018

Artist: Valerie Theberge
Underwriters: Gayle and Todd Kuoni

​ When I came upon the art bench, titled, Bean, at Town Green Park, I immediately thought of Aboriginal Australian rain sticks with their beautiful hand-painted trippy designs. Looking at Bean gives me a mystical feeling. If the park had been empty today, I might have done a little rain dance. But the park was full of people, so I sat on the bench and ran my hand across all the tiny little mosaic pieces that covered it.

​ When I was in middle school with my family, I remember being in a souvenir shop on Galveston Island and playing with a rain stick. Traditionally, rain sticks were made out of thick cactus stalks stuffed with small beans or pebbles and when turned upside down would make a rain falling like sound as the tiny bits hit various plant innards and/or pins inside.

​ It was raining outside and as I played with several sticks I began wondering: what if I had accidentally summoned the rain and thunder that was intensifying outside? I recall being really excited by the idea that maybe I was magical, if only even for a brief moment in time, at this store.

​ The store owner explained that he imported these from Australia and they were made by the Aboriginal People who lived there (it’s only now I’m realizing how funny and random it was to have Aussie souvenirs for sale at a Texas beach shop!)

​ I was mesmerized by these strange, thick and wonderfully decorated sticks that made their special rain music. Although it was the sound of the stick that initially drew me in, it was the art on them that really stuck to my ribs—and became part of my world. I especially loved all the tiny dots, interesting looking symbols and repetitions of pattern of this kind of art. I remember one stick’s design had a turtle painted in black, and out from it shot all these tiny dots like rays of the sun in an outward circular pattern. This art felt so regal and other worldly yet accessible and friendly. I dug the mix.

​ In college, I read Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell and I remember thinking about the art I had seen on the rain sticks when I was younger. Around this time, in New York City’s Union Square Park, with some of the first money I made from my new after-school nanny job, I bought myself an art tapestry to hang in my dorm room. The tapestry was made of a thin, soft cotton and the art design had an Aboriginal feel to it. I loved looking at this wall decoration as it felt like it was mimicking the constellations in the sky with all the tiny dots (like stars in space) and swirling patterns (like orbiting planets). I liked to rearrange my room a lot in college and remember even hanging this tapestry on the ceiling for a bit – like a fake nighttime sky in my room. I remember one spring break, I even brought the tapestry home to Texas and wore it as a beach cover-up to Galveston with my friends.

​ Years later, as an adult, while living in Sea Cliff, New York, I went to a new friend’s house for the first time. She was Australian and I was dumbstruck entering her house as it was decorated from floor to ceiling and in every nook and cranny with the most incredible collection of Aboriginal art. And there was one artwork in particular that caught my eye – it was the silhouette of a lizard and out from all sides of it emanated these tiny, perfect dots in wild colors in a brilliant mesmerizing pattern. It was similar to the rain stick in Galveston I remembered as a child.

​ Every time it rains I always hope there is child someplace, somewhere wondering if they made it rain while futzing around with a rain stick at a store.

Have you ever visited the “Bean” art bench? If so, how did it make you feel? What did you do when you were there? Did seeing this art bring up any memories or thoughts or ideas for you? Does it remind you of something? Someone? Does it make you think about something or someone in a new way? Did you experience a sudden rush of thoughts that were connected to other thoughts or experience disparate thoughts and emotions?

Texas Commission on the Arts
National Endowement for the Arts

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The Woodlands Arts Council

The Woodlands Arts Council | (TWAC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.