People You Know
Bird Thomas, Center for Contemporary Arts
By Sidney Schuhmann Levesque
If you’ve ever attended an ArtWalk in downtown Abilene, you probably saw a vivacious character named Burgess “Bird” Thomas at the center of the action – likely in costume. All year long, she plans special events, camps and exhibits at the Center for Contemporary Arts, including a knock-out “dragon hunt” for the dramatic reading of “The Flying Dragon Room” during the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival in June. It was the most-cited favorite activity on festival surveys.
Family: Husband, Sonny, her childhood sweetheart, a geologist and a fellow world traveler; 2- year-old grandson, Colson; two younger brothers, Gary and John Heslep, and their families.
Education: 1971 Abilene High School graduate; graduated from University of Texas at Austin in 1975 with a degree in interior design (a hybrid of art and architecture).
Background: Thomas was born in Abilene. “When I turned 18 years, 6 days, 3 hours, 45 minutes and 10 seconds old, I left skid marks getting out of here,” she says. “But like so many of us, I came back.”
Careers: Interior design work in Austin; a county agent for the University of Arkansas specializing in 4-H; 10 years working with Carpenter Interiors in Abilene; and began working for the Center for Contemporary Arts in 2009.
Known for: Creativity, energy, ideas and inspiration. “All the ideas are already out there in the universe. I just pluck them out!” Thomas said. “I get pretty jazzed about people getting to have fun together as a community, and that gives me energy.”
Art: “My art is ever changing, because I am constantly experimenting,” Thomas said. “I try to provoke thought with each piece of art I make. Right now, I’m working with Chase Turk and a sound alchemist known as Cousin Silas on an exhibit called ‘Dark Matter.’ Research for this consumes a lot of time and it is exciting to ponder what ‘Dark Matter’ might be.