Storm Lessons—Huey, Duey, and Luey

By Brian J. Sullivan

Several years ago I had the occasion to meet Huey, Duey, and Luey, three brothers who had been doing the art fair circuit for a number of years. You too may have met them since they were a couple of characters and traveled the country, exhibiting separately at the same show.

Huey was the youngest, and the most outgoing and carefree of the three. He exhibited with a pop-up tent and a couple of white folding tables. He worked in blown glass. After a rather quick setup, Huey always headed to the nearest pub and spent most of his time there until the wee hours of the morning.

Duey, the middle child, was a mixed media artist. His love of materials showed in the fact that anything found among the debris of the back alleys was exquisitely interwoven into beautiful wall pieces. He used the standard 10' by 10' white commercial tent. To secure his setup, he used four-inch PVC pipes filled with concrete and tie down stakes. Like most other artists, Duey took approximately three hours to set up, and once done, left his work up for the entire fair. He too headed to the pub once he was finished, often finding his brother Huey passed out in some corner booth. Duey loved to sing Karaoke, especially after a couple of drinks.

Luey, the oldest and most conservative of the three brothers, was a fine-woodworker. He had an elaborate tent setup with stained oak panels, integrated lighting system, and a tie-down system that would rival most architectural wonders. He worked slowly and methodically, making sure everything was just right. He was often seen working late into the night and was always the last one to leave. In addition, each night he packed up his artwork and took it with him to the hotel where he stayed. He never went out to the pubs, preferring to get a good night's rest.

The night when the great storm came, Huey was unaware, still sleeping soundly in the corner booth of the pub, albeit snoring rather loudly. Duey was on center stage singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to the cheering of his new found fan club. He was having a good time and so was everyone else. Insulated behind thick concrete walls, Luey was sound asleep inside his plush hotel, buried beneath several layers of satin sheets.

As the sun breached the horizon, the true devastation of the storm damage was slowly revealed. The grounds where once stood rows of neatly spaced white tents, was now covered with debris. Mangled tents, aluminum supports, display walls, chairs, and artwork lay strewn about like garbage in a giant landfill. Few tents remained standing; Luey's was one of them.

Looking out from his 6th floor window, Luey had a bird's eye view of the damage and of the emergency crews working to clear downed trees and power lines from the art fair grounds. He could see fellow artists and hundreds of volunteers, scurrying around like ants as they tried to salvage what was usable. A nearby parking lot became a triage-like center where identifiable artwork was sorted and put in piles along with display panels, etc. Artists helped artists as the grounds were slowly cleared. Most artists had lost substantial amounts of work, in addition to their tent and display equipment. Remarkably no one was hurt.

Meanwhile, Luey, still in his PJs, had called down to room service and ordered the grand-slam breakfast. He crawled back into bed and watched the news reports of the storm coverage. Occasionally he glanced over to the corner of his room where his bins were safely stacked, one on top of another. A knock on his door brought his breakfast on a neatly decorated cart and a bouquet of fresh flowers. The waiter, in a starched white uniform, removed the metal lids to reveal a sumptuous breakfast fit for a king.

By now the sun had risen fully in the sky. Emergency crews with heavy equipment continued to traverse the fair site. Off in the distance, a large group of people were gathering. At this impromptu meeting with the fair officials, community leaders and anyone else present, a decision was made: the art fair would open the following day, but not as a traditional art fair, but as a fund raiser to help the artists who had lost so much.

Media people began broadcasting a plea for help. Donations and volunteers began to show up in waves, bringing new hope and enthusiasm. Out of chaos would come a modicum of order as Huey organized the donations and Duey helped erect a large tent brought over by a car dealer. This would be the biggest party this town would ever see! A major band had seen the news reports on TV and called to say they were diverting their tour bus and would arrive later that day to put on a benefit concert. Local stores and restaurants donated various and sundry items. People of all kinds chipped in. Neighbors met neighbors whom they lived next to all their lives but rarely spoke to.

Luey's tent for the most part had remained unscathed. However, Luey fared far worst. It seems that when the maids came to clean his room, they found him, still in bed with a half eaten grand-slam breakfast. Apparently he died of a massive heart attack. He won't be making any more art.

Those of us who experienced the great storm will not soon forget its powerful destructive force nor its power to heal a community. Huey and Duey have put their lives back together again, doing what they love best: making art, traveling around the country exhibiting it, and occasionally singing bad karaoke.