Giving back: Lockhart artist makes a creative donation
By Wesley Gardner
Lockhart artist Sara Lee Hughes knew she wanted to help out the Caldwell County Christian Ministries Food Pantry, she just wasn’t sure how to help in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
“I’m like everybody else right now,” said Hughes. “I’m short on funds.”
Hughes didn’t let that stop her, though. She knew she could put her talent to good use. She originally moved to Texas from New York after the state commissioned her to create a painting for the city of Austin. She’s been drawing and creating things as far back as she can remember.
Hughes originally considered painting portraits of locals but axed the idea.
“I knew I couldn’t do portraits that fast,” said Hughes. “The turnaround for portraits is much longer, so I thought, ‘Oh wait, I could paint a portrait of their house.’”
Thus, the idea was born.
She reached out to a friend who had also been brainstorming ideas for helping the foodbank and told her plan.
“It was so funny, because she said, ‘You’re insane,’ and then she texted back and said, ‘I’ll take the first one,’” Hughes said, laughing.
Within a few hours, Hughes already had three more requests for her portraits, making it four in total the first night.
For Hughes, the transition from painting in a studio to on-site was so appealing.
“When you get to paint like this, particularly on location, it forces you to pay much closer attention” said Hughes. “I have to observe. Is this value right? Is this color? The light is constantly changing. You get much better at painting.”
After a few weeks, though, Hughes said she learned a lot.
“My win was coming out of this was, ‘Oh my gosh, I just cranked through 10 paintings in plein air,” said Hughes, noting she spent about two to three hours on site for each house. “I just upped my game as a painter, which I thought was thrilling.”
Hughes spent five weeks completing 10 portraits at $100 a piece.
Hughes still had to spend money on supplies, so she was required to take 20 percent of the money she raised to cover those costs, but several of her customers gave her tips along with the initial $100.
“I just took those tips and I gave it them the foodbank, and that’s how we came up with the $1,100,” said Hughes. “I used the tips for supplies and was able to donate the entire amount given by each client.”
Meredith Jakovich, executive director of Caldwell County Christian Ministries Food Pantry, said she was floored not only by the size of the donation, but the manner in which Hughes was able to raise the funds.
“I thought it was super creative,” said Jakovic, noting the $1,100 donation would translate to 3,300 meals for those in need. “Her donation was her time and her talent.”
Jakovich said she even saw Hughes painting one of the houses when she was driving through town.
“I remember seeing her, and I didn’t know it was her at the time, but I remember seeing someone out there painting with an easel and I thought, ‘Huh, I wonder what they’re doing?’” said Jakovich. “And come to find out, that’s what she was doing.
“We’ve been really blessed with people giving. I’m continually overwhelmed by it.”
According to Hughes, being able to help the food pantry was well worth the time she spent completing each painting.
“I think having a roof over your head and food in your mouth, particularly now that I have a child, are super important, so I’m so thankful for what they do,” said Hughes. “People have to eat to be in your right mind and make decisions, especially in a time like this.”