How the smile of one donkey touched others and they touched me.



By Karen Pannabecker

Many art buyers like to meet and talk with artists. They may not realize this works both ways. Artists also enjoy getting to know the folks who buy their art. A personal touch works both ways.

In December 2019, I entered an oil painting of a laughing donkey, HAWW!, in Roanoke Carilion’s annual Healing Arts show. At its opening I learned my donkey had won second place. Of course, I reveled in that feeling of accomplishment, but as everyone knows, a high is short-lived.

The Carilion show remains on display for four months. If an artist is fortunate, the encouragement of a purchase might eventually follow the initial high of acceptance.

But the Carilion show is special because it takes place on the ground floor of a hospital. Most of the people who view the show do not make a special effort to attend. They may have never seen an art show. They come for other reasons— to be tested, check in for treatment, or to accompany or visit a patient.

On their way to wherever they’re going, they pass by the art. Especially lucky for me, the curators placed my donkey, along with my contact information, beside the Information Desk.

One day I received an email from a stranger in NJ.

My husband has been in Roanoke visiting his mother and sister and has been passing your painting a lot. He sends me selfies each day. I would like to buy it for him. He is finally graduating college, 36 years after starting, and this would be a fabulous gift for him. 

I wish I could include all the selfies he took, because he looks like such a fun guy.


She and I talked on the phone and immediately made a connection. I will hold the painting for her until they head south again. I just received an email that they might come visit us here at the farm. I love that.

Two days later I received this email.

I am a pediatric ophthalmologist. I take care of kids with all kinds of eye problems and specialize in a muscle surgery for kids and adults with eye misalignment.

I have fallen in love with the donkey picture and would love to purchase it for my office. It makes me smile every time I see it and know it will make the kids smile as well. 

 In addition the donkey is an interesting animal because, although the donkey may be involved in backbreaking hard work, the donkey has the ability to appear to laugh and hee-haw- which is a good metaphor of resilience and perspective for anyone dealing with difficulty in life.

What could make an artist feel better than this? I’m working on another painting for him to hang in his waiting room.

Other emails thanked me for the lift the donkey’s smile offered in a place they would have preferred not to be.

And then this arrived.

I am interested in purchasing HAWWWWW as a birthday gift for my wife of 51 years. She will be 72 on March 6th & it would be an unexpected gift for her. 

He was disappointed the painting had sold, but asked if I could paint another one for his wife, and could they come out to our farm to meet me, our donkey, and the rest of our animals. After several email exchanges, I knew we’d all hit it off. And, we did. They spent a few hours at our home, picked up their painting and plan to return with their children and grandchildren from Richmond next month for another visit.


Yes, winning awards and selling art is rewarding. But the usual buy, that purchase off the wall of a gallery or through cyberspace, doesn’t compare with the possible continuing relationships, and even friendships, that can result from a personal connection through art.



Marsha Heatwole & Horsemania

October13th  is the auction for the Horsemania project!

Local artists painted thirteen different life-sized, locally sculpted fiberglass horses, which are on display throughout the streets of Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge County.   These painted horses will be auctioned on Oct 13th, more details.  The proceeds will benefit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children).

Cahoots own Marsha Heatwole painted one of the horses.  Learn her inspiration and see her artwork as it progressed.

I (Marsha) thought I would use this forum to share some of the process that went into her creation; how I conceived the idea behind “we Are One” and some of the surprises that ensued. 

I considered this a public works project and therefore felt it needed a purpose of worthiness.  Each animal adjoins peacefully or even melds into its neighbor.  Just as we with all of our relations with the abundant life of our planet must live together, let us be reminded that we must tolerate and meld our beliefs.

As I got more involved in adding more and more species, I realized that I had no human! The child, representing joy and innocence is located at the heart center of the horse and is holding a heart with wings. Taking the love and letting it fly.

Another important aspect of the composition is to respect the musculature of the horse itself. I have always honored the shape of any animal that I have portrayed and this was doubly important to flow with the curves and swells of the horse itself.

Through this design consideration I must mention one exciting surprise that I experienced at the very beginning of the project. I have always been a huge fan of cave paintings, but having only seen them in books and film, it came as a revelation upon the first charcoal mark upon the shape of the horse. “ oh! I totally get the cave painters now” making the picture fit the 3-d shape was the most fun of all.

Please enjoy some of these “in progress” photos.

Thank you- Marsha Heatwole

Rain or Shine: Celebrating the Arts in Lexington Virginia

It all started 5 years ago.   Artists in Cahoots celebrated its 30th anniversary by throwing a block party in Downtown Lexington.   Weather was great.   Fun was had by all.

In fact so much fun, that we all said:   Let’s do this every year and celebrate “Arts of Lexington”.

Then it proceeded to rain for 3 years in a row.    But that didn’t deter many folks, and we partied on!

Come 2017, weather is great.   Artists and art abound.

Enjoy our pictorial journey – Celebrating the Arts – over the past 5 years.   The first pics below are from our most recent September 29, 2017 event.

block party & FB ad (71 of 135)

First the Man with the Plan:   Greg Sandage, the person who expertly herds cats and makes the event happen.



2017 Arts of Lexington Block Party

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Rainy Years:   2014, 2015, 2016

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The kick starter:   Artists in Cahoots 30th Anniversary Block Party – 2013

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Designer. Painter. Artist.

Pop quiz time! What do the items in the following photos have in common?

Z2aMeYnZcTsopOtgrug 3chair 2sidetable 1


Why, they all sprang from the fertile imagination of Artists in Cahoots’ very own Sarah Gayle Carter, of course!

Back in the day (late 80’s – 2007 to be exact) Sarah ran a successful design studio in Richmond where she trained her eye and honed her skills in line, color and form. The primary business was her line of custom rugs, which she marketed to the design trade via nationally run ads, and a showroom in High Point, NC. Later, Sarah expanded into designing products for high-end home furnishing manufacturers: mirrors, lamps, plates, furniture, and even


Some designs were so popular that they’re still being manufactured today.




Her life and art has moved on since then. She stepped on a path that led her through a rural organic farm, to a farmhouse in Maine and, finally, a lovely painting studio in Lexington. But that’s another story for another time…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Your “Pier” Stories

Oh MY, What a Creative Bunch You All Are!

Folks were challenged to create a back story for “Pier” images by photographer Gail MacLeod.   25 stories were submitted.

As promised, the stories are published below.   We’ve picked 2 stories as the BEST.  And several others for Honorable Mention.

The stories are heart-felt, funny, complex, insightful and perplexing.   They simply wowed us!

First are the pics, then the two BEST & then the rest of the other stories.

Thank you all for participating.

Leave comments – let me know what you think.


Pier & egretpier study (2 of 5)

Story by Lydia S.    

Title:  On the Timelessness of An Old Pier

Tied for best- Her writing evokes feelings & memories.

There are some times in our lives that really are magical, I believe.   It was a hot, sweltering summer – after the weatherman and the National News said it was one of the hottest on record.  The wind when it came, was like the hot breath of God, rolling in on the afternoon tide.  The water was the coolest place, of course.  The sea spray was a deliverance from the heat and when a storm found its way in from the sea the locals called the blessed rain angel tears.   “When the dry earth cries out” my father used to say, “someone above weeps out of pity”.

We spent the whole summer at that old pier, I think.  Cooling our ankles in the water, shouting into the great vastness – we did all.  I do not think we recognize magical times until they are passed – that is part of their charm – but upon reflection the times at the pier were among the most magical of my youth.  Even today whenever I see a pure white egret, I am brought back there, and I am lost again in the strange liminal times on the pier.


pier study (1 of 5)

Blurry People on Pier

Story by: Winnie S.  

Title:     Run  

Tied for Best, her writing captures the sense of isolation and searching that most have experienced.

She is new in this city.   Last month she came to this city by herself for a better job opportunity.  The fast lifestyle and the busy work make her feel lost.  One time she went to the seashore, the sun was hidden behind clouds and a chilly wind made her face itchy.  Everything looks just for her sad and lost mood.  Suddenly she dropped her bag and ran onto  the bridge to the middle of the sea.  At that moment she couldn’t hear anything but wind.  No one knows where she is running to and why she is running but they know she must be chasing something.  To her dream, maybe.  Life is like running, the easiest but difficult.


Now for the Rest of the Stories

pier study (3 of 5)

Kids on Pier


Caleb S.          Story Title:  Gone Fishing.  Need Help.  

Honorable Mention because:  Been There Done That

Two brothers were told that if they got good grades in school their dad would take them to the pier to go fishing.  Unfortunately neither were very good in school, but there were resourceful.  The older brother knew the way to the pier and the younger brother saw where dad kept all the fishing gear.  In the morning they left a note on the table “gone fishing” and left.  Only when they got there neither had bait!

Cindi J.    Story Title:  Fishing for Finds with a Friend

“You know what’s gross?”  Crusty fish bait in the evening!”  Kids can find treasures, too, where adults won’t probe.  New hooks, lures, lengths of strong fishing line and the occasional abandoned pole.  Put that stuff together, you’ve got a great fishing trip!  If you don’t mind the scent and getting your hands dirty, the pier can land you the best seat in the house for a sight of a shark, skate, flounder or…….just a perfect view of the edge of earth.

Richard P.        Story Title:  I’m Hungry!

What kind of a pier is this?   Fishing- Fishing – Fishing!   I thought there would be a restaurant at the end of the pier.  I’m hungry!

untitled (1 of 1)

Woman with Phone




Teresa S.   Story Title: Beauty is in the eyes of the Beholder 

Honorable Mention because it’s way too relevant to me

Trying to take the perfect selfie, she tried multiple poses.  Finally she exclaimed, “You can’t see my double-chin now!”

Susan W.  Story Title:  A Sign of Activity

Honorable Mention because it is the most perplexing; after much pondering I think it means people have always done dumb things to pass the time – whether it’s lopping poppies or taking selfies.

It was said that the final king of Rome, Lucius Taquinius Superbus (535-495 BC) used to ride around on horseback lopping of the heads of poppies with his whip as a sign of activity.

Michael Anne L.   Story Title:      Are We Having Fun Yet?

Honorable Mention because sadly it’s all too true.

The guy on the right (in the white bucket hat) has just about had it with young beach-goers and their cell phones.  He has turned to another friend near his left shoulder to comment “Doesn’t anyone just enjoy the ocean anymore?   I guess they don’t know they have had fun until they take a picture.”

Marcia F.     Story Title:  Oops

“Oh wow!  Look at that!  Can I get it in the frame?  Le me just back up a little/  Almost got it.  Just one step further back…..  Splash!!   Oh F@*#

Cristina S. 

I think she is looking up at a fly by advertising plane with a funny message on it that caught her eye.  Just be careful not to take a step backward off the pier!

Sarah C.

Tired of watching all those guys fish….and fish….and fish….. Then the pelicans came!   Swooping, & diving & hoping for fish.   Finally one dove & came up with a HUGE fish – how would he swallow it?   I had to get a photo….out came my phone and he flew right for my head –  SNAP – Got It.   “The Pell-i-can, the Pel-i-can, his beak can hold more than his belly can”.

Maria C.   Story Title:  Proposal by Plane.

What we can’t see out of the frame – a propeller plane with the banner:  “Marry Me?”  Both woman with phone and man looking skyward observe the proposal taking place below the plane.   Woman is covering her mouth obviously surprised, man is kneeling holding her hand.

Claire C.   Story Title:  The Balloon Raising.

In a beautiful sunny half past noon a woman rushed by.   These was a balloon raising today.  It happened every 10 years.  This one was special because her husband Robert and her twins, Karo & Lela were riding on it, but Robert convinced her it was safe.  Now she thought as she rushed past the people, now as time to take one photo.

Deborah V.   Story Title:   It Takes an Artist’s Eye Sometimes

The day was too warm for Bob and the woman with the phone too loud.  He grumbled and frowned but no one noticed.  The loud woman was finally leaving the pier when she slowly approached Bob and showed him the shot she had taken of him from the back looking at the ocean and he finally saw the beauty she had seen.

Mary Laura K.    Story Title:  Eyes to the Skies

She went to the sea.   He’d always loved the sea.  She’d never been fond of the water herself.  The waves made her nauseous and the fish smell made her think of death.   But his last wish was to be buried at sea.  So she braved the waves and the smell of death to honor him.  Now her task was done and she was safe on land once more.  She turned her back to the sea and lifted her eyes to the clouds knowing he was smiling back and home at last.



pier study (2 of 5)

Pier & Egret


Janet L.      Story Title:   Watching You.

It’s a beautiful end of the day at the pier. The egret has been keeping on an ayes on all the visitors. “OH” he says, “I think one of them sees me”. He decides to stay still until they leave. There’s always an interesting group of people who come to the pier and the egret loves to people watch.

pier study (1 of 5)



Blurry People on The Pier


Connie C.        Story Title:   Running Water
Can’t wait to……Fish
…………..go home
………………….finish the argument

Kiernan B.   Story Title:  Summer Rush

As a summer storm comes into the bay the photographer captures the rush of the couple as they prepare to head in. The photographer captures the drop in air and power of the storm.

pier study (5 of 5)



Michael L.      Story Title: Do You Come Here Often?
I am wondering what a good pick-up line for a pelican is? “Are you new to the pier? Do you come here often?

Nancy S.   Story Title:  Waiting for That Special Morsel
These darling birds are patiently waiting at the pier for a small morsel to make them happy – before a storm arrives at the pier.

Gail D. 
Mr Pelican has just returned from his annual fishing trip with the guys. His first words to his waiting wife are about the one that got away. “Honey, it was THIS big!!

Kim S.   Story Title:  What’s for Dinner?
The one pelican is on the beach, his buddy “Bill” comes flying in – “What’s for inner Will”

Ashley C   Story Title:  Honey I’m Home
Wife pelican returns to husband after a long journey over distant seas. Tells him of flying over giant birds with great white wings floating on the sea. Poor things were covered with scurrying mites crawling busily over the giant birds (humans).

Ellen M.   Story Title:  Come On – Happy Hour Time.
“Hey Larry – look at that sign – it says they have Devil’s Backbone beer – Let’s Go!

Mike S.    Story Title:   “Wondrous Pelicans”

After her monthly Mackerel book-club breakfast, Debbie rendezvous with her beau, “Hey Alan! I just previewed next month’s book; it’s ‘The Captain’s Tiger’, a book of sea-faring poems by Captain Roy Sorge, and one of the poems is about us called ‘Have You Ever Watched a Pelican Fly?” We’re famous! “Well”, says Alan, “Always nice when humans share beautiful insights; I’d like to read that one!”

“Have you ever watched a Pelican Fly?

On a sunny morn, near island White
A favorite place of mine
I drop the hook at fathoms four
And watch the pelicans fly.

Stoically standing upon the rocks
Two by two, in dirty brown frocks
These fellows are not swans
But tighten his shrouds and taken to wing
This fellow’s a prince, king of kings.

He may silently glide o’er the crest of a wave
Turn, rise into the breeze
Roll, furl, and with bullet-like speed
Plunge into the depth of the sea.

Now if you’re with the one you love
Under the azure sky,
Sit quietly, press hand to hand
And watch the pelicans fly
Then they’ll dance in precision flight
A ballet just for you.
Of twists and turns and climbs and dives
Up o’er the ocean blue.
May I never lack for wonder
At the majesty of life
May I sometimes fly with pelicans
To the music of their fifes.
May I never think in lowly terms
Of that bird upon the rock
For he flies with elegant beauty
Among the angel’s flock.



Art That Brings Awareness

The Worth mom & daughter team is well known for their Historic Virginia Brick Collection jewelry designs.

Photo Feb 28, 1 37 02 PM

Lesser known is Rebecca Worth Warner’s national and international leadership in charitable causes – creating special jewelry designs as symbols of unity and awareness.

Rebecca believes the language of art is a powerful communication tool.  This belief is evident in her creation of unique jewelry designs to raise awareness of more than 20 humanitarian and charitable causes.

June blog Sylvan (5 of 5)

A founding member of the Virginia branch of Decoding Dyslexia, Rebecca is an advocate for not just awareness, but also institutional change.  In both 2016 and 2017 she and fellow DDVA members passed new legislation for students with dyslexia in Virginia schools.  The pqbd jewelry collection started as a talisman for parents, but developed into a campaign to start conversations about dyslexia. 

mbd-launch_1_origHere’s the international bit:  Last month Rebecca represented Decoding Dyslexia in England for the launch of Richard Branson’s organization Made by Dyslexia, a non-profit aimed to improve dyslexia awareness and teacher training on a global level.  Rebecca will continue the conversation in Japan this October. 

Below are just a few more of the causes for which Rebecca has designed awareness jewelry:

June blog Sylvan (3 of 5)

Pinwheels – Prevent Child Abuse America,  Sterling Pinwheel Collection.–They had been using a blue ribbon for 20 years but wanted to change to a pinwheel.  The pieces could be seen on Good Morning America in 2015 during a broadcast about Prevent Child Abuse.

June blog Sylvan (1 of 5)

Seeds of Hope, Cure By Design – The Seeds of Hope collection was created for cancer awareness in a runway show where all the models were cancer survivors.

June blog Sylvan (2 of 5)

Knotted Ribbon – AIDS Foundation (which became AIDS United).– Since the original “ribbon” concept started with the AIDS red ribbon, the AIDS campaign wanted to hold onto the ribbon.  We added a knot to the center to represent unity and strength.  We worked with Caressa Cameron, the reigning Miss Virginia in 2009.

June blog Sylvan (4 of 5)

I Have a Dream — This line was introduced at the MLK monument gift shop in DC.  The words “I Have A Dream” are read on a horizontal plane to depict the striations in the rock of the monument. 


The Softer Side of Iron Forger Peter O’Shaugnessy

Form is his thing:   Take something raw and transform it into beauty.   Conform nature to his aesthetic taste.

Forging iron captures the creative energy of fire and iron.

Peter similarly transforms soil, seeds, bulbs and sun into a colorful palette of nature in his flower gardens.  He forms his gardens like he forms his iron, with creative deliberation.

Very colorful dahlias and day lilies thrive in the South River bottom land.

He simply loves the color, the beauty and the creative expression.   [Probably also another way to get his hands dirty!]

Emotions & Memories

Emotions + Images = Memories.

Or is it Memories + Images = Emotions?

Images can strike a chord, capture a memory or evoke emotion.  Throughout the years, many return to Artists in Cahoots to share stories about what Gail MacLeod’s images mean to them.  Here are a few stories that stand out.

blog pics 2017 (2 of 6)In December 2009, the town & freeways were shut down by a snow storm.   Traveling was impossible.   One man shared that his grandson was born that day and he couldn’t be there because of the snow.   Seeing this snowy image, he smiled ear to ear and said he would keep this for himself but would ultimately give it to his grandson to memorialize the day of his birth.

blog pics 2017 (1 of 6)

I captured this image of a beautiful horse in Collierstown.   Many years later, a woman saw the photo and told me the horse has now passed but she knew the owner.   The owner was thrilled to have this delightful image of her horse.


Charlie the cow (front left) already had a press packet when his owner came to the shop and saw this pic.  He shared that a picture of his grandfather bottle feeding Charlie was front page news many years ago.  Charlie was special to this family and was being well taken care of in his old age.

blog pics 2017 (3 of 6)Many times people purchase my Rockbridge county scenes for an out-of-state loved one.   One man wanted one for his mom who was in a nursing home in Kentucky.   Another wanted one for her daughter stationed overseas.  One young woman smiled upon buying a small framed landscape, remarking how it would bring the beauty of Rockbridge County to her small New York apartment.

blog pics 2017 (6 of 6)One favorite is this 2013 composite of everyday life in downtown Lexington.   Parts of more than 20 images were seamlessly merged.    One day we’ll laugh at this remembering the fashions and styles of the time.  Consider for example the young woman in shorts with cowboy boots.


Their smiles make me smile and help motivate me to get up at dawn to capture the beauty of this area.

Do you have a MacLeod photo that captures a memory of yours?   Please share in the Reply section below, and we’ll share it on our Facebook page.

Jan Jarrard – Fossil Hunter & Potter

Goshen Pass has fossils of sea creatures??   Ocean loving sea creatures?  And this has WHAT to do with art & pottery?

We turn to the pottery by Jan Jarrard to answer that.

Eons ago, when Rockbridge County looked like the Bahamas, sea creature skeletons were trapped in ooze that turned to rock over time.  This rock and its hidden treasures appear on House and Poor House Mountain and in Goshen Pass among numerous other nearby places.

Finding these fossils combined Jan’s love of both science and art, and fueled her creative energy. She created stamps of these fossils and imprinted her pottery.

Geologists and other friends have contributed to the variety of gastropods, bivalves and brachiopods Jan uses in making the unique free-form cups that once again bring together, science and art.

Jan’s pottery has always captured the juxtaposition of science & art:   the  chemistry in the mixing of glazes, experimentation in the layering of glazes, engineering in pottery design, and always the art in having the creative vision and portraying it in clay.

Her fossil stamped pottery goes one step further by artistically capturing and sharing hidden geological features of Rockbridge County with all of us.jj-blog-pic

Genevieve Neice as Studio Wheelwright


My grandmother at an art show in the early 1960’s.

I was named after my grandmother, Genevieve Wheelwright. She was so talented and creative, I spent my early childhood in her company, watching as she delicately assembled her beautiful Christmas ornaments. They were covered with flower arrangements made of sequins held together with straight pins, the heads of which she had painted with nail polish to match her color scheme.


One of her ornaments.

Some of my earliest memories are of the time spent watching her work. I credit her with my talent and my interest in design, color, and pattern. She would show me how to use perspective when drawing houses, gently correcting me when my chimney would emerge from the roof at the wrong angle. She worked in various mediums, not restricting herself to just one, something I find myself doing as well.

My grandmother passed away when I was young. I wanted to honor her memory and her gifts to me by naming my artistic pursuits “Studio Wheelwright” because without her influence I wouldn’t see and explore the world as I do.


Watercolor landscape by my grandmother.

She would sign her work with a pictogram of her last name, a wheel and an arrow pointing right. I can’t take credit for the idea, but I use it when identifying my body of work. So that is the story behind my work. – Genevieve Neice, 2017


Her “signature”.

%d bloggers like this: