When he was offered an art-teaching job at St. John’s Episcopal in 1990, artist Martin Delabano gladly accepted, mostly because he wanted out of his job at the iron foundry, where he labored in close proximity to 3,000-degree metals and had once seen a man’s legs crushed by a cage of motor blocks.

“It is hard, nasty, dangerous work,” he recalls. He had gone to school at St. John’s, and thought it would make a nice (safe) “transitional” job. “I remember thinking, ‘Hmm, middle schoolers, yeah right! I will be looking for another job in two years,’ ” he says. “Then I looked up and 10 years had passed. Turns out I love it.”

Delabano, a sculptor of colorful expressionistic pieces, comes from a line of artists. His grandfather, whose inherited tools Delabano uses in his craft, was a woodworker. His father, Barney, was a staffer at the Dallas Museum of Art for 30 years and a painter. His parents’ art collections shaped his early interests.

“I grew up in a house stuffed with paintings; drawings; and Pre-Columbian, African and New Guinea sculptures and baskets, which had a profound influence on me. I almost didn’t have the choice to not be an artist,” he says. Over the last couple of years, Delabano has taken up mandolin making, and he plays quite well (search his name on YouTube and hear for yourself). “I’ve played guitar since I was about 13, but I’d gotten bored with it. I was stale, and I wanted to learn something new.”

For his talent, teaching (he also taught part-time at Brookhaven College for 18 years) and his avid commitment to the Carter Blood Center, he received the 2010 Distinguished Texas Artist Award. Delabano has donated about 21 gallons of blood to date. It started, he says, after he donated for a student with cancer. “They said I was good for platelets.” So he continues to give.

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