Greg Travous remembered on birthday

Gregory A. Travous, passed away Saturday morning, August 20, 2011, at 7:00 a.m. after a four-year battle with cancer — he was 60 years-old.

Travous, and his faithful canine, Karl, were lovingly remembered with stories and anecdotes between the local art community and friends of the duo during a memorial gathering held on Travous birthday, September 11, 2011, from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. in his favorite location — the Plaza de la Constitution in downtown Saint Augustine.

Nadine Phelps, who helped coordinate the ceremony, gathered with about 50 of Travous’ friends and supporters to show solidarity and unity in a peaceful demonstration of his dedication to the fight for the Constitutional Rights of visual artists.

Travous and his aging Rottweiler, Karl, were fixtures in the northwest corner of the Plaza over the past six years.

When asked if he considered himself an “artist” or an “advocate”, Travous once told Historic City News that he felt that “artists should also be advocates for other artists”.

Since coming to live in St. Augustine, Travous contended that visual art, such as the paintings he created, are “protected expressions” under the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

“The city has no authority to charge a fee to an artist for a successful lottery bid or to prohibit painters from setting up an easel and selling paintings in the city’s historic plaza,” Travous said in a faceoff with Melbourne First Amendment attorney Michael H. Kahn.

The City hired Kahn to defend them after they were challenged in court over attempts to regulate artists; lumping them in the same group as “street performers” and merchandise vendors who the City and some business owners say were gradually taking over the public plaza, market and crowded downtown streets.

During an appearance in 2009 on the WJCT radio program “First Coast Connect” hosted by Melissa Ross, Travous conceded that the City of St. Augustine has the right to enforce “reasonable regulation of the time, place and manner” in which artists may use the public plaza. However, he did not feel the city was being reasonable in their latest attempt to invoke a lottery to assign rights for visual artists to display and sell their artwork.

During his time in the City, Travous amassing dozens of civil citations and even a few trips to the St Johns County jail because he refused to submit to the authority of the City of St. Augustine to prohibit him, and other artists, from painting.

Tom Cushman, a local attorney, friend and supporter, donated hours upon hours of legal advice to Travous’ cause. Cushman, who is confined to a wheelchair, made it to the memorial ceremony yesterday afternoon and read a poem that he says was selected personally by Travous for the occasion of his death.

The Meaning of Birds By Charlie Smith

Recited by Thomas Cushman

Of the genesis of birds we know nothing,
save the legend they are descended from reptiles:
flying, snap-jawed lizards that have somehow taken to air.
Better the story that they were crab-apple blossoms or such,
blown along by the wind, time after time
finding themselves tossed from perhaps a seaside tree,
floated or lifted over the thin blue lazarine waves
until something in the snatch of color
began to flutter and rise.
But what does it matter anyway how they got up high
in the trees or over the rusty shoulders
of some mountain?
There they are, little figments, animated–soaring.
And if occasionally a tern washes up greased and stiff,
and sometimes a cardinal or a mockingbird slams against the windshield
and your soul goes oh God and shivers
at the quick and unexpected end to beauty,
it is not news that we live in a world when,
beauty is unexplainable and suddenly ruined and has its own routines.
We are often far from home in a dark town, and our griefs
are difficult to translate into a language understood by others.
We sense foe downswing of time and learn, having come of age,
that the reluctant concessions made in youth
are not sufficient to heat the cold drawn breath of age.
Perhaps temperance was not enough, foresight or even wisdom fallacious.
not only in conception but in the thin acts themselves.
So our lives are difficult, and perhaps unpardonable,
and the fey gauds of youth have, as the old men told us they would, faded.
But still. it is morning again, this day.
In the flowering trees the birds take up their indifferent, elegant cries.
Look around. Perhaps it isn’t too late to make a fool of yourself again.
Perhaps it isn’t too late to flap your arms and cry out,
to give one more cracked rendition of your singular, aspirant song.

In a June e-mail to Historic City News, Travous wrote, “I have lived a life that has been what I consider interesting and have had more than my share of adventure.”

Upon hearing news of his condition, local photographer and friend, Elena Hecht, put together a picnic event, “In Honor of Greg Travous – A Gathering of Friends” at the pavilion of Eddie Vickers Park on Riberia Street that was held Sunday, June 26th. The invitation said the gathering and potluck picnic was “to show our support and friendship to Greg Travous” and encouraged friends to bring a dish to share, an instrument to play, and a story or smile.

Travous, who produced his art under the pseudonym “Suvo”, was born in Alton, IL, and raised in Belleville, IL. He lived in St. Augustine for the past six years.

He was preceded in death by his infant brother, Timothy, mother, Mary Carmelita, nee Duffy, and father Charles R. Travous; as well as his inseparable friend, Karl.

Travous is survived by his siblings; Jody (James) Nee of Eagan, MN, Chad (Carol Ann) Travous of Tryon, NC, Jamie (David) Maul of Swansea, IL, and companion Lisa Netzer Wozniak of St. Augustine, her family and hundreds of adopted, local friends.

“I miss him a lot, but am happy that he became part of our family,” Wozniak told those attending yesterday’s memorial. She said that Greg’s last words to her were, “What’s the prize?” She said, “I explained that for me, having him as a friend was the prize, and that I hoped he felt the same about me, and his other friends.”

Contributions in memory of Gregory Travous may be made to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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