While looking for places to go during the winter months, I ran across San Angelo.  The small west Texas town is known as a rugged place of history, out where the buffalo roam – literally.

But there’s another side to this town.  The quirky, artsy side.

The Chicken Farm Art Center embodies that spirit perfectly.

AL3_0426It’s an art commune that was founded in 1971 by potter Roger Allen.



Since then, it’s grown to house more than twenty artists, including potters, painters, carpenters, blacksmiths, sculptors and many more.

There’s an inn there at the Art Center, which is where I stayed for the night.  I opted for the artist loft, which is a unique suite built in to the top floor of the original feed silos of the old chicken farm.

The bedroom is in one silo and the front door, bathroom, and a little nook are in the other.  Between the two silos is a small sitting area, a book shelf with plenty of reading material, an armoire with a television and a good sized closed.






After innkeeper (and iconographer/sculptor) Susan Warnell showed me around, I took a short walk around the complex to see what I could find.

There were colorful touches of art all over the place.




I arrived a littler later than anticipated, due to the adventure I plan to tell you about next week, but more about that later.  It was getting close to dinner time, but the weather was nice (shocking!), so I hopped in the car and headed west to find a place to watch the sunset.

I ended up on the edge of San Angelo State Park.  I must go back there some day when the forecast doesn’t predict single digit temperatures.  Anyway, I parked on the side of the road and watched the sun go down on a beautiful day.



Susan suggested a place called Franco’s for dinner.  It’s a hole-in-the-wall Tex Mex restaurant just down the street from the Chicken Farm.


This is one of those tiny, family-owned places where you’ll probably have to wait for a table, but you don’t care because it’s that good.  (Just like Herbert’s in San Marcos, TX.  Don’t get upset, it’s really that good!)  I ordered chicken enchilada’s with green sauce.  Delicious!!!

After dinner I came back to the Chicken Farm and walked around for a few minutes in the dark before heading back up to my room to do some editing.


By morning, the weather had changed dramatically.  It was about 20 degrees outside and windy.  I huddled in my warm silo for a little while before making the short walk to the kitchen for some breakfast.

If you stay there at the inn, you’ll get a key to a small kitchen, where there’s a fully stocked fridge with juice, fruit, eggs, milk, soda, beer, breakfast sandwiches, ice cream and other snacks.  There’s a sink, microwave and a stove, just in case you feel like cooking.



After breakfast I walked back over to Roger’s studio to watch some of the artists work.

There were four or five ceramicists working on bowls and mugs and goblets to help stock one of Roger’s handful of showrooms around the country.




I chatted with one artist, named Ashley Dyer (great name!), who was painting mugs.



While I was walking around, an unfinished plate and bowl caught my eye, and Ashley told me it was part of her personal collection.  She and her husband, Matt, also have a studio at the Chicken Farm.  Ashley uses lace doilies to create a unique pattern on her pieces.



After seeing her work, I walked across the courtyard to HorseFeathers Studio, where I talked to painter and carpenter Doug Keys.



Doug is part Cherokee, and it shows in his work.  He likes to paint horses and western landscapes and Native American symbols.  He’s working on stone art that combines several tribal languages, depicting his own interpretation of ancient legends.  Though she wasn’t there that day, his wife works in the shop with him and creates a lot of the wood pieces.

We chatted for quite a while about our travels and common love of Texas before I walked to the studio next door to meet one more artist.

Joe Morgan is a clay and metal sculptor.  He’s also a retired high school teacher, with a degree in biology.


Joe was working on his Beach Babe clay sculpture series.  Each one depicts a comical woman in a bikini.  He creates stoneware dishes, metal sculptures and clay pieces, but most of his work was being displayed in an installation on the day I was there.

I sat down and chatted for a few minutes while he worked.  It was so nice to talk to these artists.  I highly recommend you take the time to get to know them if you’re ever in San Angelo.

My stomach started growling, so I left the Chicken Farm in search of a place for lunch.

The Butler’s Pantry came up on my phone, so I thought I’d try it.  It’s a boutique tea room open for lunch Tues. through Fri. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  It’s located in an old house in a residential neighborhood and it’s decorated beautifully inside.


I ordered the special of the day – lobster quiche – with fruit salad.


Bobby and Terry are the owners.  Bobby does the cooking and Terry does the serving.  I chatted with Terry while I ate.  He and Bobby have been together for 41 years and both of them have deep Texas roots.  Terry grew up in Luling, home of my favorite summer festival – the Luling Watermelon Thump.

As I sat there eating and chatting, I noticed a theme in San Angelo.  Everyone had been very friendly and open.  I just felt well taken care of.

After a lovely lunch, I drove over to Fort Concho.


This national landmark fort was built in 1867 and was the home of the 4th and 10th U.S. Cavalry, among other posts.  It stretched over 1600 acres, on which about 40 buildings housed around 400-500 troops and officers’ families.  Their main purpose was to protect west Texas frontier settlements until 1889, when the fort was deactivated.

Seventeen of the current buildings are original, and five have been rebuilt.  Not every building is open for viewing inside, but there’s definitely enough to see.

I braved the cold – 27 degrees with a windchill of 13 degrees – and ran from building to building.  Each one was set up just like it would have been in the 1860’s.

I started with the enlisted men’s barracks and mess hall.



Then I moved on to the officer’s quarters, which were laid out sort of like modern homes.  One of them had a telephone museum inside.  I’m not quite sure how that ties in to Fort Concho, but it was still interesting.




Then over to the school house, which is the smallest building on the complex.



Finally, the hospital.  I found that one very interesting.  It was the largest building and had a big room in the middle of the bottom floor with beds, just as you would expect.  I looked around the room and saw pill bottles and wash bins and then something in the corner caught my eye.  A coffin.  I’m not sure if that was where they really kept a coffin or if it was just for display.  I’d imagine if I were sick and saw an empty coffin in the corner just waiting for me, I’d get better quick!




I stopped by the headquarters building and the living history stables, but at that point I couldn’t feel my hands or face.  It was time to get out of there and head home, where it was slightly warmer.

There was so much more to see in San Angelo.  I must go back when the Lily Gardens are blooming, it’s warm enough to camp and when I have time to tour the Museum of Fine Art.

Here are a few links to help you plan your trip:
San Angelo (Convention and Visitors Bureau web site)
Chicken Farm Art Center (including info on artists and the inn)
Franco’s Cafe (great Tex Mex)
The Butler’s Pantry (charming lunch/tea room)
Fort Concho (National landmark U.S. fort)
San Angelo State Park (where the buffalo roam)
San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts (museum web site)
International Waterlily Collection (next time!)

3 comments on “SAN ANGELO
  1. C.J. Hall says:

    Nicely written. You should get out more.. 😉

  2. jp thomas says:

    Thank you ashley ,
    For bring us a other wonderful segment of 24intx ,I never known what a great place San Angelo is .
    Thank you for braving the cold west texas winds to bring us such wonderful photography and all the great people that make San Angelo sic a fun place ..
    Cheers to you ashley ..

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