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Art-lover's memory kept alive by scholarship

Contributed • Dec 23, 2018 at 12:01 AM

Beverly Thomas Jenkins is known for her artistry.

She teaches mosaic art classes at the McKinney Center and other locations in the region, and has had her work shown in such art exhibitions as Jonesborough’s Juried Art Exhibition, The Journeys of Women Art Exhibition, a one woman show at the McKinney Center; the Knoxville Airport Art Show and the Ciel Gallery in Charlotte, NC.

Her artistry is also seen in her cooking. She and her husband Herman Jenkins founded Main Street Café in Jonesborough, which is now in the hands of the next generation, as their children Zac and Breelyn own and manage Main Street Café and Main Street Catering.

Thomas Jenkins is doing more for the next generation, beyond her own family. This year, she has, along with her siblings Elizabeth Thomas Norman and Randy Thomas, created a scholarship program in honor of their mother, “Grammie Jan” Jan Dowden.

Her mother passed away suddenly in 2014, which left a huge hole in her and her siblings’ hearts. Since that time, she has tried to think of something to commemorate her mother’s life.

“The main thing that kept sticking out was art. Mom was an amateur artist,” Thomas Jenkins said. “She signed her name with two little hearts.

“She gave back to the communities that she lived in as best she could. She didn’t have a lot of money, but she helped in other ways, with her time and her skills.”

Thomas Jenkins described her mother’s unending efforts of caring for others through her work in her church.

“She did things like stuff bags for victims of disasters with her church for the Red Cross, and she would also volunteer at the Senior Center,” she said. “She didn’t have a lot, but she always gave from her heart.”

She described her mother as self-sacrificing, but the one thing she did for herself was her art. She loved to paint.

“It helped her express herself and it also was ‘only for her.’ It was the one thing she did that wasn’t for her husband or her kids or anyone else,” Thomas Jenkins said. “It was a respite. And she was so good at it. She even found a way to use her paintings to bring happiness to others.”

Thomas Jenkins recalled the Christmas baskets her mother would work on with others at her church. The baskets were filled with “necessities.” “Grammie Jan” considered happiness to be a necessity, and created small works of art on canvasses to include in each basket for a family in need.

“She believed it would bring a smile to the face of whoever received it. My mother believed that was as important as anything else.”

Believing that her mother’s gift of art is what brought happiness to others, Beverly Thomas Jenkins thought that a scholarship program, helping students to follow their artistic dreams, would be the perfect way to honor a life that found such joy in making art.

The scholarship, which averages about $750, is open to students entering college in the art field. There is no age limit, but students must be going into the art field as their major.

The money from the scholarship goes to the college where the student is attending, directly from the scholarship fund.

“Doing this project helps me keep her alive in a way. It’s a legacy of her love and giving. She was a special lady and struggled in her own life in many ways, but she was well loved by many,” Thomas Jenkins said. “I think she would be thrilled to know she is helping others find the joy that she found in painting and art.”

The Grammie Jan Student Art Scholarship will begin in 2019. Students interested can apply by emailing [email protected] for an official application or more information.

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