Hearts for the Arts Orange County Honorees

Benetris Edwards is pictured with Hearts for the Arts honoree Henry Lowe.

The Southeast Texas Arts Council (SETAC) hosted its annual Hearts for the Arts event Feb. 10 at the Brentwood Entertainment Complex in Beaumont. Orange’s Henry Lowe and the volunteers of the Orangefield Cormier Museum joined six other recipients for their dedication and support for the Arts and Humanities in the region. No trophies or plaques for these awardees, each recipient was awarded a one-of-a-kind, ceramic, Heart for the Arts sculpture, created by an area artist.

Henry Lowe was named “Outstanding Commitment to the Humanities 2018” for his efforts and vision to preserve the heritage of the African American community in Orange.

The city is rich with talent in sports, music, and education. He wanted to recognize the vast contributions his community has made to the area and set out to make it a reality.

It has been a struggle since Lowe first came up with the idea in 2012, but he created a 501(c)(3)

nonprofit and acquired a building for the Orange African American Museum. For the last couple

of years, he has worked, with his committee, to raise funds to refurbish the building.

The plan is to house exhibits honoring the likes of Bubba Smith, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and educator Emma Wallace.

The hope was to open it in 2018, but tropical storm “Harvey” delayed his plans. Tenaciously, he and his organization continue to fundraise. They recently received a donation from the Velma Jeter Foundation, which Lowe plans to use to get the ball rolling again on renovations. SETAC hopes to give him a hand this next year.

Orangefield Cormier Museum volunteers  were honored at Hearts for the Arts event February 10.
Harvey Wilson, Tara Lanphar, Jesse and Debbie Fremont accepted the award for Orangefield Cormier Museum at Hearts for the Arts.

“Outstanding Volunteers in the Arts and Humanities 2018” was presented to the docents of the Orangefield Cormier Museum for their dedication to preserving the legacy and gift to the community of Paul Cormier. These volunteers care for the exhibits, educate the community, give tours to school children and help preserve the history of Orangefield and the surrounding area.

Cormier amassed an extensive collection of toys, oilfield equipment, historical artifacts, and memorabilia over the years and created a museum to house his collection. Inside of one of his buildings he constructed a series of “storefronts” to replicate the main street of Orangefield in the 1920s. It includes a gas station, jail, saloon, bank, soda shop, café, general store, and more. The second building holds a representation of the old skating rink and the old Orangefield High School that was affectionately referred to as the “Alamo.” The school setting contains original bricks from the school, and the skating rink has the original skates and floorboards.

The museum was Cormier’s pride and joy for many years, but it was rarely seen. When

Cormier’s health started failing, his children donated the museum to Orangefield ISD in 2009. This dedicated team of volunteers has curated the collection, since that time. Other exhibits have been added due to acquisitions and gifts from the community, Orangefield members of the military,

and former students of the school. The museum was also gifted the contents of the former Telephone

Museum that was located in Beaumont. The museum is open to the public 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every third Saturday of the month or by appointment. Admission is free.

Other 2018 Hearts for the Arts recipients included: Barbara Lynn- “Outstanding Achievement in the Arts”; Celia Coleman- “Outstanding Arts Educator”; Anna Gentry Smith- “Outstanding Arts Patron”; The Music Studio (Chris Jetton)- “Outstanding Business in Support of the Arts”; Tom Neal- “Outstanding Administrator of the Arts and Humanities”; and Gloria and Robert Moreno- “Outstanding Arts Program Outreach”.

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