Arts / Galleries

Inside the Ultimate Texas Art Caravan — Lottie Mae Lounge

Housed in a Vintage Airstream Trailer, the Dream Gallery — Now On Its Way to Round Top — Was a Decade in the Making

BY // 03.09.21

One woman’s vintage ’79 Airstream — as you read this, on the road to Round Top — contains a museum-level micro art gallery, and a collection of exquisite century-old Japanese kimonos, alongside beautiful oddities culled from an artist’s cabinet of curiosities titled Museum of Wonder. Meet Texas art patron Libby Tilley, who will set up the ultimate art caravan, Lottie Mae Lounge, at Round Top’s newest events venue, The Halles, from March 27 through April 3.

I first heard Libby Tilley’s name from Cynthia Toles, who is one of my favorite collector-pals in the Texas art world. Cynthia has served on most of the major art boards in Houston and San Antonio, so when she mentioned her art soul sister, I paid attention: that would be Libby Tilley. Tilley, like Toles, has a career that intersects multiple Texas cities. The Fort Worth native’s power-packed résumé includes, most recently, serving as the fund-raising force that made the Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s epic 2018-2019 renovation possible, and directing external affairs for Artpace in San Antonio. Post Artpace, Tilley headed to Austin, tapped as consultant on the 2011 merger of the Austin Museum of Art with Arthouse.

Lottie Mae Is Born

Always seated at the table, Tilley is pretty much up for anything, be it collecting or the business of art, especially raising funds, guiding nonprofits, and supporting artists. In a Zoom call — our first in-depth meeting — it was immediately apparent that this was a high-energy woman equally adept at speaking with sponsor-types in suits as she is with basking in the bohemian glow of the art-world community that is her truest passion.

Cue Tilley’s Fort Worth chapter, where Lottie Mae Lounge was born. Romance bloomed, and she moved back home from Austin four years ago; she also needed to help care for her mom, who had Alzheimer’s. After her mother’s passing in 2019, Tilley was ready to consider an endeavor that had been lodged in her mind for years: Lottie Mae, an idea hatched during a 2010 jaunt to Marfa with San Antonio artist/bestie Chuck Ramirez.

“We were camping at El Cosmico for the Marfa International Film Festival. We rented a trailer for the weekend. Chuck said, ‘Isn’t this great?’ and I replied, ‘Yeah, wouldn’t it be great to do a gallery [together] in an Airstream,’” says Tilley.

The pair never had a chance to collaborate, as Ramirez passed away that fall in a bicycle accident, then life intervened for Tilley. Flash forward to 2019. When energy, budget, and headspace aligned, it was time for Tilley’s Airstream dreams. “I bought an Airstream sight unseen,” she says. “I met this guy in San Antonio — his name is Larry Williams with Go Vintage Trailers. I had seen some of his work. He had made personal trailers for a couple of my friends in Austin, for their ranch or farms. Larry said, ‘I have one available,’ and I was, like, ‘Great! Let me wire transfer you some money.’ I told him what my idea was, and we gutted her when we rebuilt her. I finally went down to meet her in September.”

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229 Lottie Mae Exterior 2
Lottie Mae Lounge will set up art shop at The Halles, Round Top.

The newly minted gallerist extolls the trailer’s virtues. “Lottie Mae is a big girl,” Tilley says. “She’s 31 feet. She’s a vintage 1979 Airstream Sovereign. The interior-design concept was created by a girlfriend of mine from college Sara Ruffin Costello, an interior designer in New Orleans and NYC.

“I executed it myself because she was in the middle of opening up hotel Chloe in New Orleans so she couldn’t really do all the day-in and day-out. Lottie Mae’s a pretty chic and novel concept. There are probably only four mobile art galleries in the United States, and they’re not all in vintage Airstreams.”

The Airstream’s moniker hits close to home. “She’s named after my maternal grandmother, who was born in Waco and spent the majority of her life in Fort Worth — Lottie Mae Prestidge,” Tilley says. “She was so amazing. She didn’t travel. She didn’t have a car.

“She sold linens andhand gloves at this department store called Cox’s. She was the oldest of 11 children, so she was like the matriarch of the family, but she was so kind and refined.”

Lottie Mae has been a rousing success since her launch last fall, taking pop-ups to the streets of Fort Worth (three to date, including February’s focus on Black artists during Black History Month), as well as Marfa (upcoming) and Tyler. Early this month, Tilley’s artful Airstream heads to San Antonio (Saturday and Sunday, March 6 and 7, at Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy), presenting the photography of Jorge Villarreal, a former recipient of Blue Star Contemporary’s Berlin Residency Program (which the pop-up is set to benefit).

Museum of Wonder, Kimono Central, Jungian Dreams, Feminist Prints

Now this vibe-y nomadic gallery is coming to Round Top, debuting during the Spring Antiques Show at The Halles. Tilley plans a tightly focused show for five creatives, their artworks in dialogue with Lottie Mae’s elevated interiors. Included in the exhibition is Katie Pace Halleran’s intimate works on paper. Tilley says, “Katie just happened to be Linda Pace’s niece. I’ve known Katie for a long time and love her work — watercolor and gouache, and pen on paper. It’s based on Jungian dream analysis, which I started studying. I’ve collected Katie’s work as well.”

Then there’s Tilley’s best friend, legendary Dallas-based fundraiser Marti Howe, who worked on the campaign for Klyde Warren Park and currently is amidst a $100 million campaign for United Way of Tarrant County. The two first connected when they both worked at the Dallas Symphony in marketing/PR and development, respectively. Howe is the founder of Lucky Cat Kimono; her obsession with Japanese culture began with her first job, a three-year stint in sales for Bose on the island of Okinawa.

Then a fortuitous meeting during an Austin painting workshop led to her acquiring a 6,000-piece collection of museum quality Japanese kimonos. Dating from the 1920s through the ’70s, the kimonos represent the textile traditions of 10 prefectures and seven styles of garments that Howe can recite: “Haori, Juban, Yukata, Furisode, Komon, Kurotomesode, Tomesode.”

Lucky Cat has pride of place in Lottie Mae, while artisan Chelsea Craft has been tapped by Howe to respond to a select group of kimonos by creating abstract embroidery on their backs, thus bridging the past with today.

228 LM Katie Halleran Museum of Wonder 1
Artist Katie Pace Halleran’s intimate works on paper feature prominently in Lottie Mae Lounge.

Artist Kelly O’Connor is a Texas queen of collage/San Antonio insider who knows Tilley from Artpace days. The museum-collected talent, who heads Collections & Communications for Ruby City, steps up with three prints for Lottie Mae, including the exclusive feminist-goes-glam No Man’s Land #2, 2020. Rounding out Lottie Mae’s maiden voyage to Round Top are Austin artist Tobin Levy’s droll taxidermy-inspired wall sculptures. But that’s not all Tilley presents at The Halles.

For the headliner, she reprises outtakes from Butch Anthony’s hypnotic, cabinet-of-curiosities studio in the deep South: the Museum of Wonder in Seale, Alabama. A collector-cult fave, Anthony has branched out from his original vision, begun in the 1970s with a taxidermy shop and artifact room, to encompass a grand mise en scène of oddities, pairing high 19th-century Victoriana with a contemporary take on post-modern painting.

From objects to canvases, Tilley promises us that she and Anthony will curate an installation never to be forgotten in these parts. And, best of all, Tilley has coaxed the reclusive gentleman of Alabama to make a rare personal appearance on the occasion of his arcane — and very special — Round Top exhibition.

Lottie Mae Lounge at The Halles, 1465 N. Texas Highway 237, Round Top; Saturday, March 27 to Saturday, April 3, 9 am to 5 pm daily; lottiemaelounge.com.

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