Friday, October 3, 2003

Arts Aid Town's Renewal

Part 2: June Jacobs, Hand Wave Gallery, Meacham Ley Ward, Eon Music, Meacham

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Part of a Series, for the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance
By Steven Ross Smith

The door of the Hand Wave Gallery takes a visitor into a cozy and crammed collection of high-quality Saskatchewan arts and crafts, where the proprietor, June J. Jacobs can be found. She has been in Meacham since 1979, arriving three years after a group of artists including Charley Farrero and Anita Rocamora had settled here to pursue their work. June grew up on a farm near in Hodgeville, in south-west Saskatchewan. First a home economist, she turned entrepreneur when, in 1982, she began The Hand Wave Gallery and began selling and exhibiting what is likely the strongest collection of Saskatchewan’s best craft artists. She has created a viable business and drawn a lot of traffic into town. She sells the work of more than 70 craftspeople, including Rocamora and Humboldt-area potters Mel Bolen and John Elder.

Typical of the artists resident in the community Jacobs shops and hires locally whenever possible, and she volunteers for community work. Her partner, ceramic artist Charley Farrero, has developed his work through consistent production, with the help of the occasional grant, and the development of retail and gallery outlets for his work.He teaches and has also served on the Board of Directors of Saskatchewan Arts Board. Both he and Anita Rocamora have established strong international reputations and sales.

Another artistic enterprise in the community is Ley Ward’s Eon Music, a music recording studio and record label. Ley established the business with his partner Flo Frank in Meacham in 1995, and since has recorded, among others, Arlette Alcock, a Métis singer from Watrous, and Adam Daigneaux, a fiddler from Ile-á-la-Crosse. Ward himself plays many stringed instruments including guitar, bass and mandolin. Ward has also done music and instrument making workshops in the neighbouring schools, and has been impressed with the enthusiasm he’s met there.

His presence provides an enrichment for these students that might otherwise have not been available. Ley speaks of Connor Lowe, a young man who grew up in Meacham and became an excellent hockey player currently playing in Prince Albert. When he’s not playing hockey, he’s playing his guitar, often in long sessions with Ley Ward and others in Meacham. Indeed, sports are as strong as ever in Saskatchewan, but the arts too are thriving. Ward feels that the presence of artists in the town offers variety in perspective and a diverse skill base, and that in these traits lies strength for the community to draw on.

The artists have revived buildings and houses, stimulated the local economy, and have infused a new vitality into this unassuming town. June Jacobs says, of being an artist in a rural community,“ you have to live your life in these communities and show people that you’re normal, that you’re paying your bills, raising your kids. Artists are like farmers . . . there are no guarantees. This town probably wouldn’t be here if we artists weren’t here.”

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Steven Ross Smith is a poet, fiction writer, reviewer living in Saskatoon.

© For permission to reprint this article please contact the SAA.

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