Grover, Betty & Dianne

Local Artist Dianne Roberts, center, stands with her painting and the man who inspired it, Grover Smith, along with his wife, Betty, in Roberts' art studio. 

 

One local woman got a pleasant surprise when she opened a May issue of The Saline Courier to see a photo of local artist Dianne Roberts standing with a painting of her husband playing a standup base. 

"My eyes just popped out and I said that is Grover," Betty Smith said, who has been married to the subject, Grover Smith, for 65 years. 

The May 24 edition featured a photo page of pieces from the Malvern National Bank Art Show, where Roberts took honorable mention in the professional division for the painting. 

Roberts said she entered to be a good example for her students. 

Betty put the paper aside and forgot about it until recently when she came across it again. She decided to visit with Roberts at her studio, Diane Roberts Art Studio in Benton. 

She was shocked to see the painting hanging in the studio. 

"I thought it was cool," Betty said. 

She and Roberts discussed when she must have taken the photo. Using the clues of where Roberts lived and the instrument and clothing Grover was wearing, they believe it must have been taken before 1995. 

Roberts explained she takes photos of things she finds interesting and then stores them in folders for when she needs inspiration. 

Roberts is doing a series of four images of people with instruments. She had already completed one of a man with a banjo with his hat positioned not to see his face. 

She found the picture of Grover in her folder and decided to paint him. She had intended to leave his features more loose to give an abstract appearance, but she kept adding details to his face because she was drawn to it. She teased Grover that he made her fail at abstract. 

"I just like his glasses and his beard," she said. 

While searching for the original picture she worked from, Roberts discovered she had taken another picture of Grover in 2002 at a different event where he was playing violin. 

When Betty stopped by the shop she purchased the painting but left it with Roberts. She told her she would bring Grover to the shop, but didn't tell him she had already been. 

She surprised Grover with having purchased the painting. 

Grover said he has been a musician since he was 6-years-old in 1941. He started with the violin playing more classical music. When he was 12, Grover was able to play with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra through school. 

He and Betty had added up how many instruments he can play and came to around 30. 

"I play the best I can and enjoy every minute of it," Grover said. 

Out of high school, Grover worked for AT&T as electronic technician, retiring as a supervisor. In the 1970s he quit playing music, but went back to it in the 1980s. He became a professional musician after he and his wife began dancing with the Arkansas Country Dance Society. When the bass player had a heart attack, Grover stepped in. Betty joked she lost a dance partner to the band. 

Grover has played for several different bands, which has given him chances to travel. He has played in Nashville, Atlanta and Kansas City. He played for 10 years at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, and 10 years at Six Flags in Dallas. 

His bands include the Keepsake Band, which played Irish and Scottish dance music, and Peterson's Ragtime Band. He also played at church. 

Grover still plays.

"You never quit," he said. "You just become less professional."

Betty also plays. Her instruments are the cajun accordion and the concertina. She began playing with him after she retired. 

While playing in Silver Dollar City, the two fell in love with cajun music. 

Roberts is not the only artist to be inspired by Grover. He has also been painted by George Fisher and Ron Kinkaid. Grover said knowing that made him feel humble. 

"It was The Saline Courier that helped us find each other with the art being printed for the Malvern National Bank Art Show," Roberts said. 

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