Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Julia Meek

David Tanner

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 24, 2005

Heads Up! This article is 17 years old.

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 FM.

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 Sellers everywhere.

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 you.

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 subject.”

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) 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) pantheism: Naturalistic pantheism, based on the relatively recent views of Baruch Spinoza and John Toland (who coined the term “pantheism”), as well as contemporary influences.

The vast majority of persons who can be identified as “pantheistic” are of the classical variety (such as,

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 Escosa.

With her own talent and steady-as-a-rock personality shes become a hero to many, including this writer.

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