March 2021

Texarkana Magazine




MARCH • 2021

TEXARKANA MONTHLY March | 2021 | Volume 2 | Issue 3

42. STYLE Masculine Modern 46. LIFE Hang on to your Hat

10. BUSINESS Ink, Inc. 14. POLITICS Live Large by Thinking Small



36. ENTERTAINMENT Page Thirty-Six 40. LIFE Confessions of a Chronic Laugher



18. COMMUNITY Opportunity or Obstacle... You Choose! 22.

48. STYLE A Better Body from the Inside Out 50.

cover/CULTURE Outside the Lines 32. SPORTS All Chalked Up

TXK ROOTS Anish Sheth

2801 Richmond Road • Suite 38 Texarkana, Texas 75503 903.949.1460 Publisher CARDINAL PUBLISHING Staff CASSY MEISENHEIMER

CASSY MEISENHEIMER “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” —Abraham Lincoln

TERRI SANDEFUR “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” —Albert Einstein

KARA HUMPHREY “We’re commanded to love. It’s not optional... It makes you have to behave like God. And that’s the point.” — Jackie Hill Perry



LEAH ORR “What you aren’t changing, you are choosing.” —Laurie Buchanan

MOLLY KENDRICK “Forgiveness doesn’t sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up hill.” —Cheryl Strayed

MEGAN GRIFFIN “Here comes the sun and I say, ‘It’s all right.’” —The Beatles





MATT CORNELIUS “Once you’ve accepted your flaws no one can use them against you.” —George R.R. Martin

SHELBY AKIN “Find out who you are and do it on purpose” —Dolly Parton

BAILEY GRAVITT “One day or day one. You decide” —Paulo Coelho



TERRI GRAVITT “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” —Joshua J. Marine

TIFFANY HORTON “Those who leave

MARY MIDDLEBROOKS “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” —Walt Disney

everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything.” —Unknown




PATSY MORRISS “Behind every strong

EMILY SARINE “You could be a country music singer when you get older!” —Lady who attended my middle school church choir concert in 1994

SUZIE TYLER “I’m too blessed to be stressed, too anointed to be disappointed.” —Eric Geoffrey Plott

Texarkana Monthly is a multimedia publication showcasing the Texarkana area and is designed and published by Cardinal Publishing, LLC. Articles in Texarkana Monthly should not be considered specific advice, as individual circumstances vary. Ideaology, products and services promoted in the magazine are not necessarily endorsed by Texarkana Monthly .

woman is a story that gave her no other choice.” —Nakeia Homer




This month we will celebrate George’s ninth birthday at our home. If you have ever met George, you cannot forget him. We lovingly refer to him as our Golden Retriever because he radiates happiness. He has an exuberant and bold personality. We just wrapped up basketball season and John Henry and I have been

and immediately responded with, “There really isn’t luck, just Jesus, and since He lives in my heart, I know I am lucky, and all good luck comes from Him.” I did not expect this response, but must admit I felt pretty “lucky” to be his mom. I was really just searching for something to write, but it led to an answer which was much more

in his cheering section while Fred has been coaching the team. Short stature and broad shoulders are about all we can gift our children genetically, so George looks more like a linebacker than a basketball player. Although he may not score many points, George puts up a mean defense. You will not see another kid with a bigger smile on his face. He offers plenty of giggles with a fair number of fouls along the way. When he gets the chance to score, it is like he just won the lottery. I will tell him it was because of hard work and practice, but he might say he just got lucky. The word “luck” is something we toss around with great regularity. We feel lucky when we find a four-leaf clover, when our name is selected in a drawing and on occasions when we think the odds may be stacked against us. Many successful people will credit others who have helped them along the way. There may be an outstanding teacher in your life,

thought provoking. Do some people just get lucky or is it all the result of natural gifts and hard work? I believe it is the latter, and like John Henry pointed out, what comes naturally to you is often a gift. Do not take these qualities for granted; combine them with hard work and they can be used to your advantage. I find joy in seeing people use and succeed in their gifts. It is even more rewarding to see people use their gifts to help others cultivate their own abilities. This is a quality Nicole Brisco, featured in our cover story, exemplifies. She uses her gifts as an artist to develop others, encourage higher-level thinking, build confidence and create curriculum for districts across the nation. I consider myself lucky to raise my children alongside Nicole. She is someone I respect, as she always speaks with wisdom and I value her opinion. I hope you enjoy this month’s issue of Texarkana Monthly featuring

someone who invested in your natural abilities, or a parent that pushed you to outwork everyone else. Or, it may be the combined effort of many who support and challenge you. While driving my kids to school the other day, I asked, “What do you think luck is?” My oldest son, John Henry, is an old soul

local people whose natural gifts and hard work have left their mark on others through education, self-expression, overcoming injury and turning a vision into a home. Thank you for reading and remember, “everyone is famous in their hometown!” Enjoy,





that have been around for thousands of years. The number of people in your immediate circle who have at least one might surprise you, and more often than not, there is a story to go along with it. Tattoos are a form of body modification whereby ink is injected into the dermis layer of the skin which changes the color of the pigment and creates beautiful body art that remains forever. First introduced to the Western world in the 18th century, this form of body expression has grown in popularity ever since. Tattoos are still taboo to some parts of modern society because of their TATTOOS ARE A FORM OF SELF-EXPRESSION

“It was never something I considered a possibility for a job or career. I have always loved art and wanted to do something in my life which required an art education, whatever that was. Although that never happened for me, I continued to work on my skill on my own and eventually life led me to meeting the right people at the right time, introducing me to the tattoo industry and launching me in a completely different direction (than) I ever envisioned for myself. I fell in love with it immediately.” Most of us have a limited understanding of the behind-the- scenes world of tattooing. We see the art and the work, but

association with gangs and other questionable groups. However, it appears they are now growing in favor as they grow in popularity with the general public. Joaquin Hernandez is a thirty-one-year-old local tattoo artist whose notoriety has spread far and wide since starting his business almost a decade ago. Born and raised in Queretaro, Mexico, a small town two hours outside of Mexico City, Hernandez moved to Texarkana with his family in 2000. The oldest of

what drives a tattoo business? According to Hernandez, the demand for tattoos is higher now than ever before. “I think social media, movies, sports, music and every other aspect of our culture has made the industry explode as we see our favorite artists, athletes, personalities and influencers getting tattooed. It is right there on our phones and tv in high quality and finding artists to make that happen for us is just as easy.” Hernandez is right. We

three children, Hernandez and his wife Sabrina have two wonderful children, Sofia and Oliver. Hernandez is not just a tattoo artist, he is a tattoo collector. He is building a body suit of tattoos from various artists across the country and plans to continue until it is complete. Hernandez is a driven person who has always been interested in art. His inspiration comes from several places and experiences, including the stories he hears from his customers. When asked about his art and how he entered the tattoo world, Hernandez says it just kind of fell into his lap.

see tattoos every day on social media, on the internet, on television, in our favorite movies and just walking down the street. There are more than 21,000 tattoo studios in the United States, and another one opens every day. Some reports say people are more likely to have a tattoo than an iPhone! The desire for self-expression and the high demand for tattoos has led to a boost to local economies. Approximately 84% of tattoo shops are locally owned and over $1.5 billion is spent on tattoos annually. According to Hernandez, demand for tattoos depends primarily on where you live in the world. In the United States,




his craft. He must seek out other artists and shop owners from the local area and learn from them, as well as practice daily, drawing and studying tattoo related images. It is important to search for apprenticeships to further his education and become familiar with the various health risks associated with tattoos. He must become aware of illnesses and infectious diseases and know how to properly clean and care for his equipment. Knowing the health risks for artists, such as vision problems, carpal tunnel, tendonitis and back and hip issues is a necessity. There are also business matters to consider, such as health insurance and retirement. And most importantly, he must get tattooed! Tattoos can be a beautiful form of self-expression, a permanent memorial to a loved one or a personal collection of art by respected artists. However, for a business to be successful, it takes focused attention to details and marketing skills to promote your talent. Thanks to the internet, television, movies and sports, tattoos have become less stigmatized by society. Joaquin Hernandez is an obvious master of his artistic craft and creates tattoos sought by the rich and famous. Less often acclaimed, however, is his mastery of the business of tattoos. When you

Joaquin’s work on the arm of Dallas Cowboy Running Back Tony Pollard.

Joaquin tattooing Kenny Vaccaro, Safety for the Tennessee Titans.

consumers can pay up to $400 per hour for a good tattoo, while prices in Europe will be closer to $200-$300. “With the demand exceeding the supply, and with social media and the desire to express yourself in the form of tattoos also extremely high, it allows good artists and shops to elevate their price point.” According to Hernandez, a thriving shop depends on the owners, the artists and the clientele. Social media has aided tattoo businesses in their ability to share their work with a broader audience. “Whereas before, you could only hope your client, whom you did your best work on, would show and tell their friends or family, you can now post a good photo of the work done by you or one of the

artists in your studio and it can be seen by thousands.” Not all people get tattoos for the purpose of self-expression. Some get them to remember a loved one who has passed, and some are dedicated tattoo collectors, spending thousands of dollars on works from various talented artists across the world. Collectors, like Hernandez, do not express their own ideas in these tattoos, but instead allow the artist to represent themselves. According to Hernandez, becoming

a successful tattoo artist can be a long process. Mastering this business requires more than just art. A good tattoo business owner must love and respect

put the two together, you find the key to his success. Art is beautiful and necessary, but according to Andy Warhol, “good business is the best art.”









This oft-repeated principle seems to perfectly summarize our modern environment. In our information-rich, yet insight-deprived, landscape, the tempo of our political conversation seems to derive its rhythm more from Twitter than the hallowed halls of Congress. Our current leadership feels more like the carefully constructed caricatures of the professional wrestling federation than the thoughtful and respected voices of seasoned diplomats. It reminds me of a funny story told by an Anglican bishop about two young Australian sailors who get sauced one night in a London pub. As they stumble out of the bar, they encounter a highly decorated and renowned British Naval Officer on the street. They wait until he is within speaking distance and one stammers out, “Say, bloke, do you know where we are?” Offended at the lack of respect, the decorated Naval officer shouts back, “Do you know who I am?” Upon hearing this, the other Aussie sailor looks at his friend and says, “Well that’s great, we’re really in trouble now. The two of us don’t have a clue where we are, and this guy doesn’t know who he is.” Sadly, such is the state of our political environment. As the dumpster fire blazes, we’re forced to choose whether to join the fray of the bizarre fever dream unfolding before us and assume our role as a fellow drunken sailor or figure out a way to find the high road and forge a new path. In the choosing, it helps to pause and reflect on how we arrived where we are and inspect our compass to determine if it’s time to recalibrate. Though I’m quite comfortable experimenting with the instruments in today’s hyper-technical tool-kit, I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the newest weapons of modern rhetorical warfare— aka, social media. Although I choose not to engage directly, I still feel the tug-and-pull of the social media rabbit hole. It beckons like the voice of the crafty peddler on the midway or the melodious Sirens’ call seeking to lure unsuspecting sailors off their charted course. The more we reward these “free” platforms with screen time, the further down the rabbit burrows. Soon, you find yourself immersed in an information-arcade, overwhelmed with customized, emotionally charged anecdotes masquerading as news in hopes you

photo by Molly Kendrick

will continue feeding the media machine enough coins to keep the echo chamber alive. Put simply, we have been duped. As a savvy pundit once said, if you’re not paying for the product or service, you are the product or service. I’m the first to concede that social media has its merits, but it is imperative to keep this insatiable animal on a tight leash. My abstinence forces me to track birthdays or special occasions on my own, and I have to ask more probing questions to hear the details of the exploits and travels of those beyond my inner circle. This is a trade-off I am more than willing to make to avoid daily exposure to the bait resting peacefully at the base of the trap. With each picture you click or blurb you read, the platform’s algorithm learns more and more about your habits and preferences. As the hourglass turns, the machine-learning code tunes its precision with one primary objective: customize the user experience to ensure maximum screen-time (I highly recommend The Social Dilemma on Netflix if you’d like to dig a little deeper into this subject). Again, this has its ancillary benefits, but don’t delude yourself into believing that you are the lone enlightened soul who is beyond the reach of the advertisers’ web. Though the bait is highly customized, there’s no magic behind the process of content creation, and therein lies the rub. In






own explanation. He says he is fleeing from his street because it is dull; he is lying. He is really fleeing from his street because it is a great deal too exciting. It is exciting because it is exacting; it is exacting because it is alive. Stories of national prominence have a crafty appeal. They provide an outlet and an escape. We’re afforded the opportunity to channel our passions and project our frustrations toward the familiar, yet impersonal. There is freedom in the disconnection. We can verbally assail the distant villain without feeling the responsibility of meaningful engagement. Conversely, there’s an undeniable compulsion

order to attract the widest possible audience with highly effective content, users find themselves wading through information of national import. Sure, there is enough localized content to keep you engaged, but in order to properly arrest your attention for the long- term, the platform must serve you a steady diet of provocative stories which appeal to the largest possible audience. Said another way, the advertisers and social media platforms attempt to maximize profitability by using customized propaganda to entice you to consume the same basic content it delivers to other platform users. They attempt this even if that means showing some patrons the ‘heads’ side of the coin while it rails against the ‘tails,’ only to flip the equation and present the opposite argument to the rest of its customer base. This is why politics is so tantalizing to these platforms. It is a ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ proposition with a national following which can quickly inflame the passions and dampen our rational faculties. Countless articles have been devoted to the potential dangers of the digital snooping capabilities of social media, and I’m unqualified to contribute any meaningful addition to the narrative. I’d prefer to simply address the less discussed, yet subtly harmful, consequences of the unyielding emphasis on national content. While social media platforms attempt to maximize their effectiveness to the largest possible audience by feeding them carefully constructed content, it is an illusion, similar to how tract homes spring up seemingly overnight in large metropolitan areas with exactly the same design using only the color of brick and the orientation on the lot to break the monotony. However, in this context the orientation directly impacts what grabs your attention and fills your consciousness. Before you realize it, you find yourself saddled with the heaviness of highly polarized, pressing national issues,

to act when confronted with the humanity of our neighbors. It’s much easier to wail against “the rich” with your keyboard than it is to confront Mr. Rich from down the street; it’s deceptively enticing to blame “the young” on Facebook but more striking to the conscience to verbally accost Sally Young from your local church. So, what’s the solution? I’m certainly not advocating for ignorance on global issues, but I am recommending our primary focus be reserved for matters closer to our own backyard. Cut back on Fox News and pick up a Texarkana Gazette . Close your CNN app on your mobile device and watch the local news. If the detox from a national emphasis tests your mettle, escape to Narnia in the pages of C.S. Lewis. Find what was rotten in the state of Denmark from the words of Shakespeare. Become more politically astute through the time- honored lessons of Montesquieu, Madison, Hamilton, and John Stuart Mill. You’ll marvel at the relevance of antiquity. Worry less about what’s happening in Washington, DC and make the effort to attend your local city council meeting. Focus on your circle of influence to the exclusion of the broader circle of concern. In sum, live large by thinking small.

and since vigilance is not an inexhaustible resource, issues of local concern are crowded out and receive second-billing. Though it may seem counterintuitive, we’re actually living smaller lives as our focus expands to broader concerns. This concept was masterfully addressed by GK Chesterton, the larger-than-life British apologist, over a hundred years ago. While addressing the grandiosity of small things, Chesterton writes: If we were tomorrow morning snowed up in the street in which we live, we should step suddenly into a much larger and much wilder world than we have ever known. And it is the whole effort of the typically modern person to escape from the street in which he lives. First, he invents modern hygiene and goes to Margate. Then he invents modern culture and goes to Florence. Then he invents modern imperialism and goes to Timbuctoo. He goes to the fantastic borders of the earth. He pretends to shoot tigers. He almost

rides on a camel. And in all this he is still essentially fleeing from the street in which he was born, and of this flight he is always ready with his






We can see some of them coming and therefore steady ourselves as we prepare for the impact. However, some of them show up out of nowhere, surprising us with no rhyme or reason, offering us a choice. On some level, we may actually seek challenges. We want to learn and grow, and it seems life’s most effective tool for growth appears in the form of our experiences. But with these, what do we co-create with that reality? What awareness do we develop because of it? What glimpse of our highest self does this give us? Dr. Wayne Dyer shares, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” Dr. Kyle Groom was born in 1969 in Texarkana, Texas, to Lynda and Don Groom. Don worked as an electrician in air conditioning and refrigeration and as a LIFE IS FULL OF CHALLENGES.

maintenance man at a local paper mill. Lynda was a stay-at-home mom. “Dad worked a lot, so I spent quite a bit of time with my mom and both sets of my grandparents when I was young,” said Groom. “Both grandfathers had been farmers, so I loved to spend time with them. They both were retired and took the time to teach me a lot.” His great-aunt, Mary, also lived with them. She was a retired registered surgical scrub nurse who also taught nursing. She was widowed and had no living children of her own. “She always encouraged me to pursue my dreams.” Groom’s family lived in Texarkana until they purchased land from his grandparents and moved to DeKalb, Texas, his sophomore year of high school. “I loved being in DeKalb because all my friends and family were there,” he says. “I was an average student. I enjoyed football and Taekwondo.” At age 15, he met Leann Barrett at a high school basketball game. “She struck me immediately





photo by Molly Kendrick

as beautiful and easy to talk to,” but he did not see her again for two years. One night while out riding in his truck, he was stopped by some friends. Leann was in the other car and he asked her out on a date for the next weekend. The “rest is history” as they say, and they have been “inseparable” ever since. “We clicked immediately.” They married in 1993 and started their lives together. “She is my best friend, and we complement each other,” he said. After graduating high school in 1987, Groom began attending Texarkana College. While he loved biology and the outdoors, he initially wanted to become a wildlife biologist. Two friends encouraged him to test for the Wadley Regional Medical Center Radiologic Technology School to become an X-ray technician. He took the test and was accepted. After finishing the program, he got a job as an X-ray tech in Commerce, Texas. There he attended East Texas State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in

biology. He enjoyed his work in the hospital, and that enthusiasm inspired him to consider a career change. “I had the opportunity to work with a lot of good physicians,” Groom said, “and they encouraged me to pursue my dreams of becoming a physician. My family physician was an osteopathic physician, Dr. Alex Keller. He encouraged me to apply to osteopathic medical school. The difference between osteopathic and allopathic medicine is the holistic approach to patient care. We take care of the person and not just the disease process.” He applied and was accepted to The University of North Texas Health Science Center–Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth, Texas, where he graduated as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine in 1999. On December 7, 2003, on his way home after a shift at Wadley Hospital, Groom was involved in a vehicle accident. He shares, “It was a miracle no one was killed. I was wearing a seatbelt and the air

bag deployed, but I still hit the steering wheel, causing it to be deformed.” He initially refused to be taken to the hospital by ambulance but continued to be in pain, so Leann drove him to the emergency room. Once there, “Dr. McCrary ordered a CT scan, which showed a fractured sternum and multiple spots on my liver. The etiology of the liver lesions was unknown, so they did a liver protocol CT the next day. The lesions did not look benign, so they ordered a liver biopsy later in the week. The biopsy was performed and came back positive for carcinoid cancer. After the diagnosis was made and a thorough review of the CT scan was performed, the cancer was discovered in my distal small bowel and the right side of my colon. We met with Oncology, who reviewed the pathology and radiologic studies later that week. The prognosis that they gave me was not good. The doctor felt my disease was far too advanced and did not believe that treatment would be




but he also is committed to giving that to his staff. Kim Crumpton, his office manager at the clinic, shared, “Dr. Groom is a joy to work for. I have worked with him for 11 years. I have enjoyed working for him because he is willing to listen, always willing to help others, and he truly listens to his patients. He and Leann treat the employees like family. He has created a hometown team for hometown care.” Groom also is an owner of Texarkana Emergency Center and Hospital, where he provides emergent care for acute medical and surgical problems. Groom expressed his enjoyment of emergency care and “the fast pace and wide variety of conditions you get to treat. No day is ever the same in the emergency department.” Even though the settings are very different, he is committed to treating both “with a personal hometown touch.” Groom also serves as a partner for Mid-South Transitions Medical Group. They provide care to patients who are high risk after hospitalization for decompensation that could cause them to be readmitted or become ill again. They work with the patient’s physician and home health to make sure they get everything they need to succeed at home. Their staff provides care either in home or via telemedicine. This is a necessary service that helps the patient and decreases healthcare costs. Mid-South’s office manager, Lacy Engledowl, shared, “I enjoy listening to his stories from when he was younger... these stories always seem to portray a fun-loving personality that you don’t always get to know while working in an office together. One thing that stands out to me about Dr. Groom is that he seems really good at juggling all the many tasks he is responsible for. He is always very prompt about taking care of any patient or office needs we have for him.” When he is not busy working, he finds his greatest joy spending time with his wife of 27 years and their three sons, Hunter (24), Kaden (22) and Tyler (18). He also enjoys hunting and fishing. “Any day outside is a great day,” he said. He also has land and agricultural interests he likes to pursue. Groom’s story is a beautiful illustration of what it truly means to face a challenge and make the choice to look outside of your own circumstance and continue serving those around you. Making it even more inspiring is the fact he did not just make this choice one time. He makes it every day. The cancer is not gone. The treatments did not stop. The pain did not go away. His wife Leann shares, “He is a fighter. He takes it day by day and lives each day to the fullest.” With that struggle and courage comes the gift of being able to walk into a room, take the hand of a patient and truly understand what it means to be where they are. It has made him a more compassionate physician who genuinely knows what it is like to be ill. Groom is a true warrior choosing to overcome every day. Cindy Young said, “He is the toughest person I know. I am honored to know him.” Wouldn’t we all, while facing any health challenge, want to be taken care of by someone who has been in our shoes, who has felt the fear, had the questions, and prayed their way through to a new reality? Dr. Kyle Groom now lives life inspired by the words of a preacher friend of his, Austin Battiest, “The only thing you get to leave this world with is Jesus and love. Everything else stays here!” More than ever, Groom faces each day as it comes, with all the good and bad, knowing that “the Lord is in control.”

Leann and Dr. Kyle Groom on their farm in DeKalb, Texas.

effective. It was recommended that I go back to work and try to make money for my family while I still could.” With this grim prognosis and without other options, his doctor referred him to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, but he did not believe they would have much to offer Groom. “I had looked at the films,” Groom said, “and I had 13 different lesions on my liver, and as a physician myself, did not feel anything could be done. I was devastated! I had a wife and three young children and what would happen to them without me?” Exactly as they told him, he went back to work and tried to make money and preparations for his family. “I was in a dark place and felt hopeless. I went days without sleep.” Standing beside him the whole time, Leann never gave up and kept reassuring him, “Everything was going to be alright.” Groom remembers, “I prayed every day, and I prayed hard–sometimes all night. It wasn’t even that I was afraid of dying. I wanted to see my boys grow up and to be there for my family.” Just as he felt like he was hitting “rock bottom” and wanted to give up, he had a glimpse of hope. A family friend who knew the head of GI Surgery at MD Anderson called him about Groom’s case. Her husband had the same type of cancer Groom had. She set up an appointment for him the next week. “She then informed me of the appointment and told me to be there. It is good to have friends!” A short month later, Groom had surgery. They removed half his liver, half his colon and one-third of his small bowel. All the cancer that was visible was removed. Groom said, “It was rough for about six weeks. The doctor informed me that I was not cancer free, but he had given me time and that the disease could be treated. I have not slowed up since.” Despite what some might have found to be an insurmountable challenge, Groom works hard to continue to spread his time and expertise evenly and tirelessly between three different places in service to his community. He opened DeKalb Physician’s Clinic because DeKalb was such an “underserved area.” He felt there was a genuine need for a clinic there. His practice involves a lot of preventative care and treating acute or chronic problems with established patients. “I enjoy visiting with my patients and being able to help people.” Not only does he desire that for his patients,








BY SUZIE TYLER OUTSIDE THE L INES N icole Brisco is an innovative and passionate educator, a devoted and creative mother and an award-winning artist!

Each role is strongly connected, balancing and fortifying the other, to earn her the incredible success she has found in all three. Brisco loves her role as an artist and believes it makes her a better educator. She has always been artistic, and at an early age, she remembers sitting at her mother’s feet drawing and coloring at the end of the school day. She began college as a pre-orthodontics major, but after taking some art classes for relaxation, she found joy in creating and turned that love into a career.

artwork by Nicole Brisco | photo by Molly Kendrick



As an educator, Brisco takes her role seriously. After twenty-three years of teaching, she says the deep and meaningful relationships she has built with her students have been the best part. Watching them grow from the ages of fourteen to eighteen and become successful adults is rewarding. She enjoys seeing all of their growth and accomplishments. Brisco was honored recently to attend the wedding of a couple who met in her art class. It is stories like this which allow her to remain connected as part of her students’ lives, beyond the confines of her classroom. The bonds she creates with her students are very important and she says, “they feel like part of your family… I have ‘my children,’ but then there’s ‘my kids,’ and that’s who I have here at the high school.” That type of love is the hallmark of all great educators and the hope of every parent when they drop their children off at school each morning. Brisco sees a good educator as someone who can be flexible and adapt. She says, “I look at the way I teach differently now that I am a parent and see it from that point of view.” As the world has changed and produced a barrage of imagery through media, learning styles have changed as well. She believes someone who can look at each student as an individual, figure out how they learn and adapt to those individual needs, will be more successful. She knows that, like the uniqueness of a student’s perception of the world, each artistic creation is as individual as its creator, making personalized instruction her goal for each of her students. Brisco feels her paintings reflect what she sees around her. In every piece of art she creates, there is depth and meaning, providing insight into her view of her surroundings. For example, one special project that has become priceless in Brisco’s collection are drawings she did after her mother passed away. They related to the transition from Earth to Heaven and are very meaningful. Her personal attachment to these pieces makes them invaluable. They would not be for sale at any price. She asks her students to have purpose in their art, and she makes sure to do the same in her own. Brisco and her husband, Chris, wanted to travel and experience life before taking on the role of parents, so, for some time in






NICOLE BRISCO’S PROFESSIONAL AWARDS, HONORS AND PUBLICATIONS Best of Texas, State Educator Award of Excellence—Ford Corporation—2019 National Secondary Art Educator of the Year- NAEA Seattle—2018 Texas Humanities Educator of the Year— National Endowment for the Arts—2017 Scholastic Art and Writing Educator Honoree—New York City—2015 State Course Writer: Art and Media Communication—Austin, Texas 2010-2012 TEA Center for Education Development CADRE Honoree—2009 University of Texas $1,000,000 Grant for UT Art Ed Program for Art and Media Communication Course Scholastic Art and Writing Juror—Columbus College of Art and Design—2009 Young Talent of Oklahoma State Juror, Oklahoma Art Education Association—Oklahoma City Oklahoma—January 2007 Finalist: 2007 National Secondary Art Educator of the Year, Western Division National Art Education Association

Texas Secondary Art Educator of the Year 2006—Texas Art Education Association

Teacher Institute in Contemporary Art Awardee– School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Endowment of the Arts Discovering Painting Textbook—Student Samples—Davis Publications—May 2010 Discovering Printmaking Textbook—Student Samples—Davis Publications—May 2006 Discovering Drawing Textbook—Ready-Made Still-life—Davis Publications—May 2006 Discovering Drawing Textbook—7 Student Benchmark Works Selected—Davis Publications Published in School Arts Magazine—Contributing Editor 2008- Present, 22 articles published. School Arts Magazine—Clip Card Writer—August 2005-Present Published in TAEA Star -Creative Risk-Taking, Big Dreams, Big Money and Secondary Updates Selected: Advanced Placement Consultant Training— The College Board, Princeton New Jersey Published in Advanced Placement Studio Art Teachers Guide—The College Board, Page 154 April 2004 Published in Westminster Schools Advanced Placement Guide—Atlanta, Georgia/ Maggie Davis—March 2003 SFA: Texas Art Educator of the Year—October 2002 -Stephen F. Austin University Published in National College Board AP Booklet—March 2003 Pleasant Grove High School Teacher of the Year—April 2002—Rotary Club

Nicole, hard at work on commissioned piece, “Beauty in the Chaos.” Photo by Ava Gray Brisco

the beginning of their marriage, it was just the two of them. Now, their children, twins Ava Gray and Christian, are the primary focus, and Brisco is determined to be very purposeful in her parenting. As a mother, art influences the way Nicole shows life to her children. As in many homes with two working parents, the Briscos take on the challenge of making the family unit their top priority, keeping boundaries between their professional lives and their lives at home. However, Chris is also creative and plays a vital role in Nicole’s career as an artist, and often builds frames with Christian’s help. Ava Gray helps with painting and can be found on the floor helping her mom work on a project, truly making it a family affair. Even though her husband is a “chemist by profession,” and she is an artist, they perfectly “blend and complement each other,” and both children feel pride in assisting in her art endeavors. “Being an artist and an art teacher has given me, to some degree, an advantage as a mother. I really don’t ever find a time in my life where I’m not using art to at least make some adventure or create something fun for the kids to do, helping them learn to be creative.” Brisco’s work has been featured in many art shows throughout her career. For an artist, these types of exhibitions evoke a myriad of emotions, including the exhilaration of having the world see their talent and many hours of hard work. They also bring the anxiety of feeling exposed to the world as others have the opportunity to judge or critique something that is very personal to the artist. From her




Nicole explains the process for creating her self portrait on this month’s cover… “I created this self portrait as a homage to working mothers. I chose to represent a more contemplative pose where my head turns in one direction but I look back the other. Reflected in my face are my twins Ava Gray and Christian as they are each a part of me. The portrait begins with a blue undertone wash and later is washed with soft pastels and peach tones. Small dots freckle the page interconnected across my visual sky as a reminder of the God that holds me together with a strong bold feather that in native cultures represents strength and balance which is the definition of mom who is given the strength to do both.”

Chris, Nicole, Christian and Ava Gray Brisco in 2019.

senior art show, which was a requirement for the completion of her college degree, a professor from her school bought one of her paintings. She felt a lot of pride and validation from the sale of that piece since it came in the foundational stages of her quest to become a professional artist. More recently, Brisco showcased about 90 pieces in a solo exhibition at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. Even though the challenges of putting together a show on that scale, with a job and children, cannot be denied, it was really quite relaxing and fulfilling for her, and she accredits God with guiding her. The art students at Pleasant Grove High School also have the opportunity to showcase their works in state and national competitions. The school hosts a yearly student exhibition of five to six hundred student art pieces in a one- night show. These young artists learn the business aspect of the art world and gain the experience of putting together a

professional presentation. The National Art Honor Society recently selected eight students from Pleasant Grove to present their art at a show highlighting exceptional student achievement. Out of only 90 students selected nationwide, almost ten percent of this year’s honorees are Pleasant Grove students under the guidance of Brisco and her co-teacher, Melissa Manning, who is also a former student. That cannot be coincidence. These ladies are truly extraordinary teachers. Another major contribution Brisco has made to education has been the writing of published classroom curriculum. After years of teaching, traveling, and seeing other classroom procedures, she has learned the tools that work. She has authored curriculum that is now part of textbooks used across the nation that spotlight Pleasant Grove High School’s art program. Brisco’s creative genius has earned her a multitude of well-deserved awards. Among those was the National Secondary




My name is Heike Schemmel-Cruz, and I have been a Licensed Massage Therapist for nine years, practicing in Texarkana. I want to create an open discussion about massage therapy, which I hope will include your questions, my recommendations and some funny stories. Please contact me by email or text with all your questions and concerns at or 903-277-7046. KH asked me: Is a deep tissue massage for everyone? Deep tissue massage must be customized to the individual, as it involves the physical breakdown of muscle tissue or “knots.” On its own, the idea of breaking down stiff muscle tissue sounds painful, unrelaxing, and makes us question, “is it really for me?” A deep tissue massage treatment results in an instant change to a person’s stiff neck, shoulders, back, glutes, calves or arms. It enhances mobility and blood circulation, potentially increasing a person’s energy and improving sleep. The most important benefit is pain relief, often within the first session. Anyone seeking a deep tissue massage for the first time should assess their own health status. Considerations prior to this treatment are: recent surgeries and/or ongoing bacterial infections (i.e. urinary tract infection), skin conditions (fungus, rashes, etc.), cancer treatments, blood clotting or open wounds. Individuals with these health conditions should reconsider a deep tissue massage treatment. For expectant mothers, you may ask, “Is a deep tissue massage treatment safe while I am pregnant?” A deep tissue massage treatment specifically focused on the neck, shoulders, back, and calves is safe if the expectant mother and the baby are healthy, and the pregnancy has reached the third trimester. A good, deep tissue massage focuses on tight muscles and their surrounding areas. Usually, an hour-long treatment works perfectly. The most common treatment technique involves a slow, deep gliding pressure applied along the length of the muscle, using the elbow, forearms and hands. I often remind my clients to breathe deep during their treatment, and they often remark, “It hurts, in a good way.” After your first deep tissue massage, you may feel exhausted and sore and some individuals may exhibit bruises. It is recommended to avoid exercise right after the massage and to drink plenty of water to flush out metabolic waste. Finally, rest. Your second deep tissue massage will go much better. Most often, to achieve full relief from your “knots,” it is recommended to schedule second, and maybe third massages shortly following the first treatment. I perform 1 hour, 90 min or 2 hour deep tissue massages. Sincerely, Heike




Art Educator of the Year which she was awarded in 2018. Another of her most prized accomplishments was winning the Texas Humanities Art Educator of the Year. This award is given each year to an Art, English or History teacher and included as part of the competition is a written essay. Brisco considers this award a special honor and says, “In high school, I never considered myself a writer, and I was up against English teachers who were grammar experts. I believe my creative side allowed me to be a more confident storyteller. I was very honored to have been chosen out of hundreds of entries. Receiving recognition for an accomplishment that was outside what I naturally do, which is to draw pictures, I was incredibly proud of that award.” Every person is made up of unique talents, goals and personality traits. One cannot be separated from the other because they all are necessary for building the individual. In Nicole Brisco’s case, the artist provided the foundation for the educator

and according to her, the educator prepared the way for parenthood. “God placed me as an educator before a mom because He’s revealed so much to me in the classroom about things I want in my children… so a lot of those things are reflected in me as a parent.” Instructions she has given her twins every day since kindergarten are, “be good, be kind and be helpful.” These are values she admires in many of her students. “There are so many things that my kids teach me at the high school, and I think, ‘I want my children to be like that little girl or that little boy’ because they really have such a head on their shoulders and are so kind, polite and hard-working.” As we grow as individuals, we would be wise to do as Brisco does, allowing every individual facet of our lives to add to the whole and develop us into something better. Texarkana is a better place because of Nicole Brisco. Respect the educator, love the mother and appreciate the artist, but most of all, recognize her beautiful soul and all the blessings she brings to our great community.

Nicole’s family visiting the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.









I n July, people from all over the world will eagerly tune into the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Coronavirus or not, the Olympics is a long-standing tradition that the world’s best athletes look forward to competing in every two years, and the show must go on! Among the most popular events, gymnastics draws a loyal following of millions, worldwide. Young boys and girls from gyms around the globe cheer for Olympic celebrities competing for the coveted gold medals. Growing up, University of Oklahoma freshman, Gabe Smith, was one of these children watching the Olympics, wide-eyed in front of the television. Watching events like the Olympics grew Gabe’s passion for gymnastics and drove him to overcome a serious injury, times of fear and adverse situations to find success in the world of gymnastics. Gabe knew if he were going to be an elite gymnast, it was going to take hard work, dedication and perseverance. Gabe has risen to the challenge. The son of Tricia and Bryan Smith, Gabe attended Kindergarten through twelfth grade at Pleasant Grove Independent School District in Texarkana. “I began gymnastics around the age of three at Joni’s Dance and Gymnastics Center,” Gabe recalls. “My sister (Angel) was the one that originally inspired me to try out gymnastics. When

I was little, my babysitter worked at a gymnasium and suggested my sister and I try it out.” Gabe and his sister share the same hard work ethic and passion for fine arts. Once a gymnast herself, Angel is now a full time professional dancer in Los Angeles. Gabe nurtured his love for gymnastics throughout his childhood and into high school. The first coach he remembers pushing him to new limits was Lloyd White at Northeast Texas Elite Gymnastics (NETEG). As Gabe grew older, he realized that his talent might could become more than a hobby. “Coach Robert Sellers has definitely made the biggest impact on my gymnastics career,” Gabe states. “Throughout high school, he gave me the foundation I needed to be where I am. Without him, I wouldn’t be.” With a focus on the vault and rings, Gabe’s list of accomplishments and awards is not to be understated. He is a Level Four and Level Five State Champion, and a Regional Qualifier for Level Ten. When asked to list his accomplishments, Gabe considers overcoming a serious injury in order to continue to pursue his dream as a gymnast to be his greatest personal victory. “In December 2019, I found out I fractured my lower back and needed to wear a brace for four months. I was told that I may never be able to




do gymnastics again. I was determined to get back into the game and not give up quite yet.” Gabe’s patience, dedication to physical therapy, and unremitting hard work led him to a full recovery and the opportunity to pursue his gymnastic dreams at the next level. After high school in 2020, Gabe chose to attend the University of Oklahoma and compete with the Oklahoma Gymnastics Club. Gabe’s schedule changed immensely when he entered college. “Before college, I practiced around 20 hours a week,” Gabe said. “Now that I am in college, it is much more intense. We have 6:00 am workouts along with normal practice.” Yet, this intense workout schedule has not dampened Gabe’s resolve to succeed in his schooling as well. “Outside of gymnastics, I’m usually doing schoolwork or attending classes. I’m majoring in Biomedical Engineering so it takes up a lot of time, but I find time to socialize with friends when I can,” Gabe said. Like most big moments in life, before Gabe gets “on the mat,” he admits that one of the most prominent emotions he feels is fear. “We push the mind and body to do things most would think to be impossible. However, getting over that fear is the most rewarding feeling I leave with while doing gymnastics.” Gabe’s ultimate goal and motivation for continuing to put in the long hours at the gym is to show people the incredible hard work and dedication the sport of gymnastics takes and that if he can do it, anyone can. Gabe says that there is not just one athlete in particular that he looks up to in the world of gymnastics because there are so many people who have dedicated their lives to gymnastics; it is just too hard to pick. Nevertheless, he says that Nile Wilson from YouTube gives light to the positive aspects of gymnastics and shows the world just how fun it can be, so if you are looking for someone to follow, he would be a good start. Gabe truly believes that everyone considering gymnastics should give it a try. He says, “They could end up loving it, or hating it. Whatever makes them happy is what I feel they should do.” Looking back, Gabe said, “If I could go back to my younger self, I would tell myself to push myself more, and not get beat down.” Gabe is dedicated to making himself a better gymnast every day, and he has no intentions of stopping anytime soon. And who knows? Maybe someday he will compete in the Olympics and motivate the next generation of remarkable athletes to pursue the same passion.



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