The Port Arthur Historical Society is proud to announce the opening of a new temporary exhibition at the Museum of the Gulf Coast featuring a whimsical collection of mixed-media collages exploring one woman’s recollections of growing up in the southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana in the 1950s. Gumbo Girl will open to the public with a free reception featuring the artist on Sunday, Aug. 12, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Joelle Smith Ford was born in 1943 in Beaumont, and spent her formative years in Orange and Beaumont and DeRidder, LA. She is the daughter of Kathryn and Clayton Smith who previously owned Clayton Smith Pianos in Orange and Beaumont Music Store. She graduated from DeRidder High School in 1961, and attended Centenary College in Shreveport, LA, and Northeast Louisiana State College in Monroe. Finally, she received a BFA in Painting with Honors from the University of Kansas in 1999.

Since 1976, Ford has lived in Lawrence, KS. She has been married to Allen Ford of Jefferson, TX since 1964. They have four daughters and eight grandchildren. Ford’s work is included in the Emprise Bank Kansas Art Collection, and was recently one of fifty artists included in the Kansas Masters Invitational. She received a MAP Grant from the Kansas City Artists Coalition to have the images from Gumbo Girl made into a video.

Although she has not lived in the South for many years, Ford continues to harbor a great love and affinity for the area and wanted to share childhood memories with others – especially family and friends – thus the origin of Gumbo Girl. One collage titled Coke Parties reminisces about the parties teenagers would have in their homes “everyone brought their favorite 45s. I especially liked “Going Out With The Tide” and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” sung by Jivin Gene and the Jokers from Port Arthur.”

In another piece titled Snakes in the Henhouse, Ford remembers gathering eggs for her grandmother. It “might sound like an easy task, but several times snakes were encountered curled up in the nests. One was an especially large rattlesnake with many rattles. Granddaddy killed it with a hoe and the Times-Picayune came out to take pictures.” In a collage titled Private Club House, Ford recalls “Daddy brought home empty shipping cartons that were used for pianos. They were large, sturdy and reinforced with wood – perfect to design and paint our very own “girls only” club house.”

Gumbo Girl was most recently exhibited at the Alexandria Museum of Art in Louisiana. It will remain on view at the Museum of the Gulf Coast through September 16, 2012. For more information about Joelle Ford and her art please visit her website at:, her online blog at:, and her facebook page at:

The Museum of the Gulf Coast is owned and operated by the Port Arthur Historical Society in partnership with Lamar State College – Port Arthur and the City of Port Arthur. It is located at 700 Procter Street in downtown Port Arthur. The Museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. For more information or to schedule a tour please call 982-7000 or visit