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Postcards: Surprising Salado

“Many of the artists who live here have statewide reputations; some are nationally known.”

Former Ringling Bros. clown James Maltman balances a ladder on his chin during a recent performance at the Salado Silver Spur Theater.  (Photo by Howard Chang)

By Nola McKey

Recently, I decided to explore the peaceful-looking village of Salado. I found its claim to fame—Best Art Town in Texas—intriguing. Was this Bell County community (population 3,600) really a bellwether of the arts?

As I drove down Main Street, admiring the historic buildings and attractive storefronts, I realized that if a scenic setting is a prerequisite for attracting artists, then Salado fills the bill, in spades. The rippling waters of Salado Creek flow through the heart of downtown, slowing the pace both literally and figuratively.

Just downstream from the Main Street Bridge sits Salado’s famous bronze of a legendary maiden-turned-mermaid, titled Sirena. Local sculptor Troy Kelley donated the work to Salado in 1989 and recently added a bronze of the magical catfish said to have changed Sirena into a mermaid forever.

Prellop Fine Art gallery owner Larry Prellop gave me his take on Salado’s arts scene. “For the size of this community, we have one of the most impressive collections of artists and galleries in the state,” he said. “Many of the artists who live here—and there are a lot—have statewide reputations; some are nationally known.”

Prellop, who paints distinctly realistic seascapes and Hill Country scenes, represents more than 30 artists who work in oils, acrylics, watercolor, glass, and metal, including metal artist Charles Allen, whose “botanical sculptures”—life-size, three-dimensional depictions of flowers with minute details—caught my eye.

Hershall Seals, chairman of the art department at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in nearby Belton, says “Salado has a unique arts community,” Seals told me, “and I don’t mean just visual arts. The Silver Spur Theater, in the old Grain & Seed building, presents first-class vaudeville-type performances, and the Tablerock amphitheater offers programs almost every month.”

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