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Jeffrey Wheeler Abruptly Departs Splendora Gardens

Jeffrey Wheeler and Ruby Surls
Jeffrey Wheeler and Ruby Surls

Jeff Wheeler and Ruby Surls

Splendora Gardens, the historic studio compound of the artists James Surls and Charmaine Locke located in Cleveland, Texas, has undergone a change in leadership which will undoubtedly result in a change in programming. Jeff Wheeler, the Lubbock artist who was brought in to run programming in collaboration with Surls and Locke’s daughter Ruby Surls, has left Splendora after just one year and has moved to Croatia for an artist residency. In a statement to Glasstire, which can be read in full below, Wheeler said about the transition “It was not a choice I would have made on my own, but due to this transition, I will be moving on to explore new opportunities. I am happy to be working with James on exciting projects to be announced in the near future. I am excited to focus entirely on my work in new and beautiful surroundings, and can’t wait to see what it will look like.

In his year at Splendora Gardens, Wheeler curated and produced three large group exhibitions, each with ancillary performances, readings and other programming. In an interview with Glasstire, James Surls said “Splendora Gardens will continue on and go forward.” Currently underway is an exhibition for the fall curated by Alton DuLaney, the UH MFA student who last year exhibited a gun as part of the student show (it was taken down by campus police). In addition, Wheeler and Surls are working on a “substantial” exhibition for next spring that will feature nine painters and nine sculptors; Surls and Locke plan to construct a building to display Houston artist Bert Long’s work; and there are still plans to launch an artist residency at the compound.

Watch the video we produced about Splendora Gardens below.

Read Jeff Wheeler’s full statement below.

A year ago today I drove out of my hometown of Lubbock, Texas, on my way to a new adventure. I had accepted the job of Director of The Studio @ Splendora Gardens which is located in the historic studio of James Surls and Charmaine Locke. I was honored and excited to be working with one of my favorite Texas artists to breathe life back into the studio by building a Texas Art destination for Houston and beyond. I woke up every day feeling lucky to be living and working on this amazingly beautiful property filled with magic, art, and history. I am proud of the year we had with three very successful exhibitions including Ulterior Motifs no. 15, which featured some of Texas’ best artists and music by my brother, Bryan’s band, LOS SONSABITCHES. On one of my favorite days in Splendora, we hosted 125 Greenleaf Elementary fifth graders and spent the day drawing flowers. The inspiration went both ways that day. There is renewed life and energy in Splendora and I am honored to have played a part in that.

I am writing today to announce that Splendora Gardens is now undergoing changes. It was not a choice I would have made on my own, but due to this transition, I will be moving on to explore new opportunities. I am happy to be working with James on exciting projects to be announced in the near future.

As I have learned over and over during my life, as one door closes, another one opens. In just a few days, I will be heading to Croatia where an Art residency on the Adriatic Sea awaits. I am excited to focus entirely on my work in new and beautiful surroundings, and can’t wait to see what it will look like. For starters, instead of Texas dive bars, next week I will be drawing the ruins of Rome!

I would like to thank James and Charmaine for an unforgettable year in the woods. I look forward to working on future projects with them and am lucky to count them among my friends. Thanks also to the friendly and helpful neighbors in Splendora, and others that came from afar, for helping us in so many ways all year. You know who you are…

When my residency comes to an end, I will return to Texas and see what else I can get into to make sure I remain part of the Texas Art scene that I love so much. Have a great summer, and if you find yourself overseas, come to Croatia and let’s catch a sunset!

Jeff F. Wheeler
Lubbock, Texas
June 1, 2017

also by Glasstire
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