Art at Memorial Park

HOUSTON To John Barber, a welding torch is like a paintbrush. It's his artistic tool, which shapes sheet metal into bigger than life metal canvases of fish. He majored in art in college, but wound up among dusty dinosaur bones in the Museum of Natural Science.

"I just fell into a job putting that big diplodocus together and I was the right guy for the right job at the right time," he said.

Diplodocus, as in a small version of the larger museum piece. Barber worked at the museum for years, but 14 years ago, he founded his own studio in north Houston and began fishing, so to speak. He's had gallery showings and sells to wildlife art collectors.

"I would like to become a cultural icon, like Geroge Rodrigues in New Orleans and his blue dogs and I'd like to be to the fish what George Rodrigues is to the blue dog . I think that would be a lot of fun."

Barber's career change was subtle and of his own choosing. Not so for Harold Siefert. Until 8 years ago, he was a commercial banker. He was laid off and started taking art classes.

"I didn't know I could do anything with art, but I'd go to galleries and say, 'I could do that' and my friends would say, 'Go do it'."

He has with much success, taking found objects like a boot, making a mold and casting it in bronze. And there are more natural pieces, too, like a flower bloom and banana leaf. He works longer hours now at his art, but time flies as he creates.

For both men, changing careers was the best thing they could do.

"It's that passion that drives you forward and I feel sorry for people who don't have that," said Barber.

If you'd like to head out to the Bayou City Art Festival, all you need to know is right here.

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