The way Jane Cross sees it, art is like life.
“There are no easy answers in art, and you’re always in trouble. And you’re always having to improvise. And you can’t just go to a book and get all the answers.”
Jane first started teaching art classes in Lake Highlands in 1962. That was the year her daughter, Lisa Johnson, went off to first grade. Lisa, the fourth of four daughters, raised Brody and Berkley here in LH with husband, Scott.
She taught preschoolers at St. James Church, then she had a mothers’ class and a kids’ class.
“I made $25 that summer, because I had to pay to rent the church,” Jane chuckled, looking back.
It wasn’t long before Jane was offering classes at Lake Highlands North Recreation Center (“the building was smaller then”), and at SMU, where she instructed as many as six classes at a time, including writing, over the years. She teaches a lighter load today.
I peeked in on a class at the rec center and asked how she got started.
“When I was a little kid, I always liked art. I can remember drawing little-bitty trees. After my mom passed away, I found a rabbit that I had painted. I was five years old, and she had kept it. I just always liked it.
“My mom had an aunt who was an artist. She was never married. She was my ‘other mother’, and she and I were buddies. I remember once I had the measles and she had peritonitis and we spent about two weeks in bed together doing art when I was little.
“We didn’t have much money for me to study formally, but I had one class as a kid and I went for about six weeks when I was 12 years old. The teacher, Vivian L. Anspaugh, was a pretty famous Dallas artist. We did clay, we drew magnolia trees – I’ve still got all the drawings. We had a lot of fun. That lady lived to be 110.
“I went to college as an art major, but Mother wanted me to be an interior designer, which I hated.”
Teaching was what she truly loved.
“Jane is a great, unsung asset for the rec center, but I don’t always think about checking here for classes and activities,” said Suzanne Dale as she painted “Sailboat in Action,” the lesson on the evening I went to observe. Nearby, friend Carol Doggett squinted in concentration and Carese Bott toyed at mixing colors.
“I only learned of her classes through a last minute invitation from Lisa in May. Her class was so fun and it sparked an artistic aptitude I did not know I had. I have been going to her Monday/Wednesday classes since then and loving it.”
“I think it makes you more observant,” added Cynthia Allen, another student. “It’s like when I tried to paint clouds and they looked like waves. I would sit at stoplights looking up at the clouds. You become more observant to texture and color and shades.”
“And the world comes alive,” said Jane.
Suzanne and her friends go to the Painting Workshop Monday/Wednesday from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m, and the cost is $35 per class. Jane also hosts Painting and Drawing Wednesdays 10:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., and the cost is $60 per month or $15 per class. Other classes are listed in the rec center catalog, available onsite at 9940 White Rock Trail or by calling 214-670-7793.