Julia Meek, the widely respected Fort Wayne
visual artist and radio personality, has become
so associated with all things folk, eco-sound,
pantheistic, natural, no artificial ingredients
added, cooperative-building and mutual-aid
enabling that she's perceived as a kind of brand
name of her own.
It's not facial tissue it's KLEENEX; it's not a
photo copy it's a XEROX; it's not the
international language of music, it's FOLK TALES
with Julia Meek, Saturday nights on WBOI 89.1
That's not to say Meek hasn't cultured these
associations over the years, nor does she refrain
from promoting the cause of spreading exchange,
networking and activism through her drawings and
broadcasts. She's a nurturing channel, bridging
the old-new, heritage-cultivation and folk art
genre up to the au currant.
She is perhaps initially remembered for her
impressionist line drawings and water colors
depicting familiar local landmarks and history.
The series depicting Fort Wayne as City of
Invention, Parks, Faith, Breweries and Family Fun
was done as premiums for the fund-raising efforts
of ARC of Northeast Indiana Easter Seals
campaigns. She's also contributed a set of cards,
portraits of the Baker Street train station, the
Lincoln Tower, Wolf & Dessauer, the McCulloch
Park bandstand and, most recently, the Fort Wayne
Public Library, 1904-1965, which once stood at
Wayne and Webster.
Her work also appears on the menus of Hall's Old
Gas House and she along with her significant
other and sometimes collaborator, Jim Kelsey, can
be seen during breakfast hours at the Hall's on
Bluffton Road. Her logo for Hyde Brothers Book
Now for this unadulterated commercial message:
The works are marketed as notecards or frameable
prints. They are available at numerous locations
in the area. Contact Easter Seals Arc Development
at 260-456-4534 to find the outlet nearest
Meek's delicate renderings emanate from several
influences, including her mother's, who exposed
and encouraged her hand. As she grew older the
artist fell under the influence of Beardsley and
Audubon, Dore, Durer, Klimt, Matisse,
Toulouse-Lautrec. Mucha, Picasso and the Chinese
painter Mai-mai Sze, among others.
Nowhere can her work be better examined than in
the lobby of the Steel Dynamics corporate office
building, where the artists illustrated history
of Fort Wayne adorns a fiberglass mastodon.
Originally commissioned by Fort Wayne magazine,
the "Mag-a-don" traces the evolution of local
climatic and geographic history. Study the images
and see the remains of the glacier activity which
carved lakes and rivers out of the earth. Explore
the dense hardwood forests which once dominated
the region. Escape to the modern day city parks
and discover as well some of the artist's secret
treasures she incorporated in the work (her
garden, her mother's patio, some special jewelry)
Okay, we've sort of defined her hand - now what about her voice and music?
A mainstay in her job at Hyde Brothers
Booksellers on Wells Street, Meek is recognized
if not for her knowledge of the written word but
through her deep, informed, melodious voice. So
recognizable is her voice that she's been "outed"
while going through a checkout lane. "Hey aren't
you the radio girl? You know the one that plays
the Folk music?"
Meek's Internet handle, "folkbabe," pretty much
captures her passion for music as the
international language. Her favorite influences
from the musical sphere are John and Alan Lomax,
Jean Ritchie, Frances J. Child, the Carter Family
and Sweet Honey in the Rock to list a few.
"Whether or not you understand or speak a
certain tongue isn't relevant to the message most
music makes," Meek says. "There is so much
commonality in song that it is impossible not to
hear a universal rhythm. It's such a marvelous
medium to convey a story, pretty much about any
That's pretty much what Meek does on her weekly
show. A recent one explored the theme of what
makes a house a home, previously was an hour
dedicated to "the political." But her
ethno-musicologist bent doesn't end with her
on-air persona. She has expanded the concept to a
traveling show where she conducts Folk Tales in
middle and high school classes when students
themselves produce installments.
Likewise she has taken her show on the road to
corporate and civic affairs where she's produced
special themed programs for a variety of
occasions. She and those most closely associated
with the radio program have been exploring
syndication of her radio format which seems like
a natural progression.
Meek's sources of influence are clearly all over
the board, a point proven when she recently spoke
of herself as a pantheist, not the sort of
self-description one hears every day. As a
refresher here's an Internet definition:
1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical pantheism:
Classical pantheism, which is expressed in the
immanent God of Kabalistic Judaism, Advaita
Vedanta, Sanatana Dharma and Monism, generally
viewing God in a personal manner.
2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic pantheism:
Naturalistic pantheism, based on the relatively
recent views of Baruch Spinoza and John Toland
(who coined the term "pantheism"), as well as
The vast majority of persons who can be
identified as "pantheistic" are of the classical
variety (such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism&Hindus),
while most persons who self-identify as
"pantheist" alone (rather than as members of
another religion) are of the naturalistic
variety. The division between the two "flavours"
of pantheism is not entirely clear in all
situations and remains a source of some
controversy in pantheist circles.
Whew! Anyway the artist, who recently celebrated
her 55th birthday with a camping trip to southern
Indiana, celebrates her own local heroes from the
arts and environment arenas, including Betty
Fishman, Tom and Jane Dustin, Tennis and Mary
Mahoney, George and Sue McCullough and Dorothy
With her own talent and steady-as-a-rock
personality shes become a hero to many,
including this writer.