Inspiring Friends, Small-Town Arts, & Why I Was at the Jail

My friend Jawanna inspires me.

I mean, really inspires me.

She’s a mother and a grandmother. She’s a Sunday school teacher. She dresses up in costumes to teach science lessons to kids. She’s taught me about prayer flags, ancient goddesses, muffin-top pans, and Gingko trees. (A few years ago I blogged about the “Gingko bath” she organized for our writing group.) She’s involved in an International Women’s Group here in my small town, organizes monthly lunches for women in our church, and teaches American Sign Language. Whew.

She journals. She writes poetry. And she makes truly amazing art in all mediums. She even has an “art room” addition on her house, bursting to the seams with beauty and supplies.

It’s because of her that I kept a pregnancy journal to give to the Bean someday. It’s because of her that I’ve taken a raku pottery class. And it’s because of her that I ended up sitting in what used to be our county’s old jail last week among a room full of local characters.

You read that right.

See, our small town has an Arts & Cultural Center on Main Street in what used to be an old jail. For real.

I’d never been in it before, but Jawanna, of course, has had some of her original artwork featured in its galleries. When she found out that the Arts & Cultural Center was going to host an open-mic night for the sharing of local writers’ works, she began recruiting folks to attend. She’s good at recruiting.

Or at least she’s good at recruiting me.

There was actually no microphone, so I guess technically it wasn’t an “open-mic” night, but there were a dozen or so writers and volunteers gathered to eat, share, and enjoy one another’s work. As it turns out, I was by far the youngest in attendance (by at least 15 years, I’m guessing).

Okay, not the youngest. We brought the Bean along but she only stayed for the first few minutes. It was a little quieter of an event than I had anticipated, and she’s kind of a squawky little thing.

So, I know you’re wondering, what do small-town arts include?

Well, our county judge told a handful of stories from a newspaper column he wrote about fishing, and then he gave out copies of his book. A local ceramic artist read three original poems. A quirky artist, store-front owner, and poet brought along hands-on poetry that involved tossing pieces of poems around and audience participation. A professional storyteller told some stories. (Naturally.) A fabric artist, labyrinth facilitator, and workshop teacher read an excerpt from a memoir. Jawanna read a poem about laundry, bringing along her grandmother’s glass washboard as a visual aid, and I closed out the evening by reading a few poems from Enough for Today.

More excitement than you’d expect for a Monday night in an old jail in the middle of America, wouldn’t you say?

Yes, yes it is.

Which is just another reason I love my small town.

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2 comments on “Inspiring Friends, Small-Town Arts, & Why I Was at the Jail

  1. HOMER WHITE says:

    What a lovely tribute to Jawanna! She did a workshop last night at the library for teenagers on creating found poetry = they loved it! Haven’t seen you in a long time = I hope you are all doing well. mary lou

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Mary Lou! Jawanna is always making an impression on folks. I was glad to hear that she offered a poetry workshop for teens this week.

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