Roger Hall Allen - August 21, 1943 - January 8, 2019

 

Roger Hall Allen, 75, died Tuesday, January 8, 2019, ending a courageous battle against prostate cancer. He was surrounded by family and friends in his home at the Chicken Farm Art Center in San Angelo, Texas.

Roger was born August 21, 1943, in Amarillo, Texas, the son of Woodrow Wilson Allen and Elvora (Nall) Allen. He grew up in Lubbock, and studied electrical engineering and architecture before graduating in art education from Texas Tech.

In 1967, Roger began teaching art at Central High School in San Angelo. In 1971, he joined Bill Rich and Richard Ramirez in purchasing an old poultry processing facility in San Angelo that would become the nationally acclaimed Old Chicken Farm Art Center.

The Houston Chronicle once described the original chicken farm as a “weed-choked three-acre plot on the nondescript northeastern edge of town with nine dilapidated, junk-filled buildings.” Roger, and others drawn to his vision, turned it into an eclectic campus for emerging artists and cultural activities.

In early years, Roger taught school, worked on the property until dark and threw pots deep into the night. The art center formally opened in 1976 with this goal: To work with the community and the schools promoting art and creating art awareness.

Roger left his teaching job in 1977, but he never stopped being a mentor to others.

As teacher and artist, potter, jeweler, painter and sculptor, Roger shared his talents with community children and adults alike. Roger had a deep commitment to and believed children needed to be engaged with art and making things with their hands. At his core, he was always a teacher, and hundreds of his former students over the years have given testimony to how profoundly and positively he impacted their lives. He made significant gifts to organizations that worked with youth, particularly to the children’s education programs at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts.

Over the years, Chicken Farm events gained celebrity status with their diverse mix of artists-in-residence, musicians and visitors – the annual Artists’ Ceramics Workshop, Thanksgiving Weekend Open House, and monthly First Saturdays.

Roger’s vivid pottery includes the distinct Stripe Ware and Multi-Stripe Ware; his 1993 creation of the StarKeeper story and images; and the Big Ass Dancers, inspired by a long-ago night in London, Texas.

Three people who shared much of Roger’s life journey all moved to San Angelo in 1985:

Pam Bladine, born in Texas but raised in McMinnville, Oregon, and Roger’s life partner for the past 28 years. She shared his passion for the Chicken Farm community – “not a commune,” she once said, “but more like an extended family.”

Howard J. Taylor, then-and-still director of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. Roger and the Chicken Farm went beyond art, he said, to play “a significant role in this community’s growth and development.” Speaking of his best friend, Roger said, “We’re like two ends of a stick.”

Jerry Warnell, who with his wife, Susan, purchased the back half of the property in 2000 to develop and operate the Inn at the Art Center B&B and the Silo House Restaurant. He became like a brother and partner to Roger while expanding the art center with contiguous studio facilities.

Roger’s Texas life revolved around his art, family, friends and operation of his Chicken Farm Art Center and StarKeeper Gallery. He loved his travels to regional art shows and his twice-yearly trips to visit family and friends in Oregon, particularly the beaches, crabbing and ocean fishing at Pacific City. When driving to Oregon, his favorite stopover was the area around Moab, Utah, where he always wanted to spend more time.

The San Angelo Standard-Times covered Roger’s activities for decades, once reporting, “Many in the arts community credit the Chicken Farm and Roger Allen for San Angelo’s reputation as an arts-oriented city.”

Roger was featured in the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Dallas Morning News, Washington Post, Texas Highways and Southern Living magazines, by national columnist Bill Maxwell, and recently on the cover of San Angelo’s Create Magazine.

“We shouldn’t forget,” said Howard Taylor, “that Roger was widely known in the ceramics and art world across the country. He was quite simply one of the great American studio potters. So many of the other leading ceramic artists knew Roger well and came to his Art Center to conduct workshops or, in many cases, simply to visit. People like Paul Soldner, Robin Hopper, Akio Takamori, Lana Wilson, Clayton Bailey and dozens of others who knew and admired this great artist. Locally, he was loved and respected, but I think few people here realized the magnitude of his fame and the admiration he inspired at the national level.”

The San Angelo Chamber of Commerce in January presented Roger with the Phil Neighbors' Spirit of San Angelo Award.

None of those accolades ever distracted Roger from his engaging mixture of confidence, kindness and humility. He was equally as comfortable mixing with local leaders or dancing to the Chicken Pickers on First Saturday. He loved life, worked hard and knew how to have fun.

Roger is survived by his wife, Pamela Jane Bladine of San Angelo; brother, Randy Allen (Tanya) of Lubbock; son, Toby Jack Allen (Lily) of San Angelo; daughter, Tami Leigh Allen Anderson (John) of Phoenix; grandsons, Jake Allen Anderson and Luke Thomas Anderson; grandson, Shaun Leslie Allen; great-grandson, Cory Allen; brother-in-law, Jeb Bladine (Michelle) of McMinnville; and four nieces and two nephews split between Texas and Oregon. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, and his sister, Mary Fleming.

“It’s a rare thing,” wrote Chicken Farm production artist Kassie Dilworth, “for someone to touch so many lives, encourage the best in each person they encountered, love with a passion felt by people the world over, and share the most beautiful thing a person can share: Spirit.”

A Celebration of Spirit was held Sunday, January 13, at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. Remembrances of Roger can be shared with the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts Children’s Education Fund.

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