The Daily News’ weekly Neighbors series features one person from LaGrange and the surrounding area.
This week we added a little artistic flair to our lives with Chris Hagebak, the manager at 809 Gallery of Art on Hill Street and internationally known artist.
LaGrange Daily News: Do you live here in LaGrange?
Chris Hagebak: Oui. Yeah, I moved back to LaGrange in, I think it was ‘99. … I moved back to LaGrange after I retired from law, and then I didn’t have any intention of opening an art gallery. But I had done art for a long time because my grandfather was an artist and my father was an artist and so I kind of grew up around it, so it was always something that was always in the family. So I had access to all the materials and all that kind of stuff so it was like, it just became one of those things that I just naturally did. I didn’t think of course that I could actually make a living being an artist. … I had enough experience in art and enough private training, really good high school art teachers, and so with the background that I had in art, that made it a lot easier for me to transition into being professional.
LDN: What is the best part of your job here?
Hagebak: The best part of the job is the kids. Because we teach lots and lots of kids. … Helping the kids learn something new and having a good time with the kids. It’s one of those jobs where you can’t believe you get paid to do this, you know? It’s just so much fun. So I spend all day having a blast with the kids. The kids have a blast. That’s the best part of the job, is teaching. That is what I enjoy the most, but the travel is nice too.
LDN: So, what do you do with the kids?
Hagebak: I teach them the painting, but then there is pottery, stained glass. We do glass fusing. There is some macrame. We do jewelry work, craft stuff, a huge variety of art. One of the things I like to stress with the kids is not just the fun stuff, but I start every lesson with a history lesson or some background on the subject or the medium or the artist that we’re going to emulate. We do oil, watercolor, acrylic. We do pencil work. We do charcoal pastel, you name it. Screen print, we make our own T-shirts, so we do all this stuff, so it’s great. … We’re going to be teaching beginning German lessons once a week, that’s going on too. And I’ll probably have a show in Wiesbaden, Germany, next year, so teaching German now will be a good thing because that’ll give me a little refresher, so that I’ll feel more comfortable when I go.
LDN: You were saying earlier that you interviewed in both German and Japanese. How many languages do you speak?
Hagebak: I speak German pretty well. I speak Japanese well enough to find the bathroom and order food. And then a little bit of Spanish because I like to vacation in places where people speak Spanish, so I try to learn just a little bit of Spanish.
LDN: What do you think is the most beautiful place in town?
Hagebak: I want to say Hills & Dales because it’s always pretty… when I think of pretty that is really what I think of. Also, we have so many wonderful places out at the lake. We have all of those great little parks and they’re just everywhere at the lake and they’re just wonderful, and there are a lot of people who never go out there. It’s just so gorgeous all the time. … Just about half the county is that lake, and it’s just amazingly beautiful, and there is always something to do. I think we are really lucky to have that here. If I was looking for flowers or something like that, that would be Hills & Dales. I did their wallpaper. They hired me to go in, and they have this wallpaper in there that all fits together and it was specially made and all that stuff. Over the years people have rubbed up against it, so I got to refurbish the wallpaper. It was neat; that was really cool.
LDN: What kind of businesses would you like to see open up around town?
Hagebak: We need another art supply. We don’t have an art supply, and I’d like to see that. Particularly if we had somebody who was local. … If we had somebody who was local, who was like a small local business owner who would open an art supply, I can about guarantee they’d do really well because I have people walking in here wanting to know where they can buy art supplies, and I hate sending them to Columbus or Newnan, Carrollton.
LDN: What is it like traveling to Japan?
Hagebak: The first time I went to Tokyo, I visited primarily the museums because of course the exhibition that I was in was in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and that’s in the museum district, so I just went around and looked at all the museums and stuff. And this last time, I went in April and visited shrines and temples, and so I did kind of a historical tour this last time.
LDN: And you said you were going to go over to Germany as well?
Hagebak: Hopefully, next year. I’ve got a friend who is trying to put together an exhibition in Wiesbaden. … That’ll be nice because I’ve never been to Europe. It’ll be nice to make a trip to Germany. I’m more familiar with the language and the culture. And my big thing right now is painting in coffee. And that is my claim to fame.
LDN: If someone wanted to join a class, how would they contact you?
Hagebak: The easiest way is just on Facebook or just walk in the door.
‘Neighbors’ is a weekly series by the Daily News that highlights community members. To nominate a person to be featured, call Daily News editor Matthew Strother at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153, or email [email protected]