By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
They’re called shotgun houses for a reason because, they say, you can take a shotgun, shoot it through the front door and the bullet will reach out the back door, which gives the impression the house is small. Stepping inside Catherine Stroud’s shotgun house, one does not sense a small space. The opposite is true.
She has created a home with a main room, her kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom that feels spacious and inviting. When she purchased her home, it had layers of modern features such as drywall and other materials that had been placed over the old wood walls and floors. Her main room was once two rooms.
As an artist she saw the potential in her newly purchased antique home and began the sweat labor to create her version of home and studio. The two rooms in front became one when she removed the wall.
Catherine pried the drywall and plaster off the walls and revealed the beauty of natural wood which she has left bear with all its historic nicks and chinks. “I don’t have to worry about splashing paint on the walls or hanging a nail wherever I want to, and no worries about wall smudges,” explained Catherine.
As you gaze around, you notice some minor paint splashes and splotches on the floor and on her well-chosen antique pieces of furniture. Her home’s décor includes her work, and some art she has collected from her family and other artists she has known. Also adorning her walls are various guitars and a banjo.
Immersing herself in Galveston and all the history and culture that the island holds is something she enjoys. Her home is a display of her art and pieces of Galveston’s history.
She studied Fine Art at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and learned the art of living as an artist in Galveston. Her childhood home in The Woodlands was where she developed her talent and love of creating.
Part of her college years were spent studying abroad in France. After college, she was ready to take on the French art scene and took her talents to the picturesque town of Nice. In Nice she taught English to French children and was finding her spot as an artist in France.
But she felt a stirring in her soul. There was something missing she was yearning for something different.
What more could a young artist desire? She was in the place so many artists and lovers of art dream of living. Her fluency in French afforded her an ease that other aspiring artists might not have enjoyed.
During her time of questioning her future, her mother purchased a secondary home in Galveston and suggested that Catherine come back to America.
While living in her mother’s house she began to look around and see the beauty of Galveston. It was like looking in a mirror as she recognized herself in the city and the many communities of people whom she began to befriend or who befriended her.
One of those friends was George Lee, who himself was an island artist and icon. George taught her the value of learning how to play a musical instrument for those times when her creative work production needed a break.
She went to work with Scott Hanson at Antique Wearhouse, where she learned carpentry, repurposing an old piece of what no one else wanted to keep and the beauty of antique furniture.
Discovering the art and friendship of Derek Anderson inspired her and helped seal the deal for her to call Galveston her home.
Her little shotgun house was coming along as a future home, but it lacked a wooden floor. The original was not salvageable. She and Scotty Hanson had planned to use another wooden floor, but it too proved to be unusable. Her heart was a tad bit low as an antique house required an antique wood floor.
Catherine tells the story of her and Scotty going to lunch at Smooth Tony’s. On their drive back to work, they spotted carpenters placing long boards in a dumpster. These boards weren’t just any ole boards, these were from the original floors at the First Presbyterian Church on Church and 19th Street in Galveston.
Her dream house finally had a dream floor.
With her house completed she now focuses her energy on creating art for others. She is a muralist, and she takes commissions work that is hung in homes around the region. Occasionally she will exhibit her art for shows in public venues.
Her mural work can be seen at Island Salt Air Yoga Studio on Mechanic Street. The turtle she was elected to paint will once again return to Island Salt Air. For now, it is sitting in Catherine’s main room waiting for her to do some touch-up work needed due to a tumble the turtle had.
Her most recent addition to her life is a bunny.
“I was sitting with my boyfriend at his home in Trinity and we saw something moving out in the yard,” explained Catherine. The two went outside and discovered two, 2-week-old bunnies. One did not survive, the other took to Catherine and thus began the journey with a bunny who needed a lot of new bunny care.
Two o’clock is announced by the chiming bells at Galveston’s historic Lutheran Church. It’s time to put the bunny down and time for Catherine to change her t-shirt. She has learned that caring for a newly born bunny requires a certain level of acceptance of nature running its course.
Catherine has time left over to volunteer with several youth organizations in Galveston. She relishes those moments when she watches a young person pick up a paint brush and become meditative as they begin to create.
“When you hold a paintbrush, you just can’t help it your mind begins to turn off the yappy part and you begin to meditate as you paint,” shared Catherine.
Catherine uses acrylics when she paints. For now she creates pieces that are abstract with lively colors and shapes depicting people, nature and images that she has felt inspired or commissioned to create.