Focused on Mississippi: Burnley Cook (Renaissance Man)


NATCHEZ, Miss. (WJTV) – The first time I met Burnely Cook, he was restoring an old organ from the long-gone Baker Grand Theatre in Natchez. He spent five years putting it back together. Now, he’s gotten it playing better than new. Not to mention, he’s also a musical living jukebox.

I clicked on his Facebook page the other day and found this: Burnley Painting! Is there no end to this man’s talent? So, I finally found an afternoon and went Natchez to drop by Burnley’s house to ask him, what’s up with the art?

“I’ve always painted. Even when I was just a little child I was always playing around with colors and paints,” explained Burnley.

Well, didn’t we all? But I never got past the place where people mostly asked what my paints were supposed to be. So, I assumed that to painting a recognizable painting one must have to possess some great degree of talent from birth. Burnley says maybe I stopped too short of the goal line. Maybe I quit too early.

“Naw, I think anybody, anybody can draw, anybody can paint. You know, it’s not something certain people are born with. With a Rembrandt gene. It’s just like so many other things, like playing the piano or doing art work or baking, cooking… anything. It’s the desire. How badly do you want to do it. And if you can’t live without it, you’re gonna be good at it.”

Burnley says a lot of his artistic ability comes from reading and watching videos, and then applying what’s he has learned.

“I’ve often told piano students, art students, ‘If I could just slice the top of your head off and pour what I know into your head.'”

Well, we all discover that you can’t wake up one day expecting to have all of these abilities that you want in your life. But we can wake up and practice or take a class. Want it and work for it, like my multi talented friend Burnley Cook in Natchez.

He was recently named one of the 100 people in Natchez that you need to meet.

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