School daze

Christopher RobinOur Town Arts

Successful art evokes emotions from the viewer. Whether it is a photo, painting, sculpture, music or dance, the goal is to get the observer to hesitate and consider the work at hand with pleasure, concern or even an active response.

The school where Aunt Lil taught deep in the Nebraska sandhills. (Courtesy of Chris Rohwer)

This week’s image, though not compositionally strong, is full of pleasant memories for me. This abandoned one-room schoolhouse in western Nebraska is like so many that dotted the prairie near my home. Many of my classmates attended these before coming to town for high school.

Chris Rohwer’s Aunt Lil and the school where she taught on the Calamus River in the early 1930s. (Courtesy of Chris Rohwer)

One-room schools generally had just a few students, half who might have been siblings. My dear Aunt Lil taught in one of these in the early 1930s and told stories of riding her horse the two miles to teach. She boarded with the family of one of her students and they gathered dried cow chips to burn for heat.

The other thing this image reminds me of is the beautiful blue skies and clouds of my Nebraska youth. Each summer day the massive thunderheads (cumulonimbus clouds) would build in the west, some reaching over 60,000 feet. As the sun dropped they became a display of oranges, pinks and purples. After dark, they would often put on a light show of dry lightning.

It is no secret that I dislike the hot humid summers that often produce the haze over the Smoky Mountains and the Tennessee Valley. This year, however, for some reason, the July haze has been minimal and the afternoons have provided some of the clearest and beautiful cloud shows I have experienced in Tennessee. I hope it continues into August. Watch the afternoons and when you see those clouds forming, find a wide-open spot, and just watch and enjoy as nature paints the sky.

Photographer Chris and painter Robin Rohwer each week share a painting or photograph that captured their interest in hopes that it will also capture yours. Their website is Email them at If a particular piece interests you for your home or office, please contact them. All works are copyright protected.

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