Master pianist and composer Julia Walker Jewell will perform an original work entitled “The Unbroken Fall,” while her friend, contemporary artist Francisca Dekker, responds with a drawing called “The Banner of Hope.” This project will be presented at the culmination of American Craft Week in downtown Wilmington at Bijou Park (225 N. Front St.) on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
American Craft Week (October 7-16) is a nationwide initiative to promote awareness of cultural and economic impact of the arts. Locally in Wilmington, in addition to Jewell and Dekker’s artistic performance, events are being lead by Star Sosa from Spectrum Jewelry and Joan Loch from Crescent Moon.
Best friends Dekker and Jewell have been collaborating for the past few months on the best way to reach out as artists to help a troubled community—and they’re talking about our nation and world.
“After the Charleston shootings, Francisca called me, and she was speaking in Dutch, so I knew she was really upset,” Jewell said. “Finally, she blurted out in English, ‘What can we do?’ So we began talking about how we could share one voice (of hope) in our respective mediums, hers in drawing and mine in music.”
This isn’t the first time they’ve partnered on a project of sorts. Dekker and Jewell have a long history of working together and helping one another. Fourteen years ago, they crossed each other’s paths as PTA moms in their children’s school.
“I was walking down the hall, and saw Francisca drawing with several finished pieces at her feet,” Jewell explained. “One drawing, ‘Free Spirit,’ caught my eye, and I said, ‘Oh, I’d love a copy of that! I’d like to compose a piece of music for that!’ Without hesitation, Francisca gave it to me, and after deep exploration of my feelings about it, I wrote a musical response.”
When Jewell called her friend and played the piece on the phone, Dekker was so emotional she couldn’t speak. “Julia thought I didn’t like it,” Dekker recalled. “But I just loved it!”
They presented their combined art in a program for the Cameron Art Museum, and both artists continued to hone their crafts and friendship. Together with creative gains, life also brought them painful losses. First, Dekker lost her husband and mother to cancer. Then Jewell lost her father to cancer, followed by a hard-fought but successful battle with cancer herself. Once the dust settled and the pieces fell back into place, the friends promised each other a weekly lunch date, which they do their best to keep.
This weekly collaboration, both as friends and artists, has resulted in the idea of combining Jewell’s music, “The Unbroken Fall,” with Dekker’s gestural drawing (a technique in which the pen never leaves the paper), “The Banner of Hope,” for the grand finale of American Craft Week. During this day, seven different musical groups will present their own interpretation of Jewell’s work, including Mike Adams, Christina Brier, Benny Hill, Galen Hunsucker, Annie Jewell, Laura McLean, Susan Savia, and the Port City Trio.
As the musicians play, Dekker will gradually roll out a banner 150-feet long by 3-feet wide as she marks her gestural drawing responses both to the music and the public’s reactions to the event. Dekker’s drawings will be done with black marker in the center of the banner, with wide margins left on top and bottom for American Craft Week participants to write inspiring comments and quotations with colored markers. Once the banner is fairly complete, all those present will physically hang the banner in Bijou Park for folks to continue adding their hopes for positive and healthy communications.
This whole experience, which includes juried artists who will display and sell their works at booths found within a six-block radius, is presented by the Downtown Business Alliance and Market Resource One. The latter nonprofit is led by Joan and Mike Loch, long-time supporters and promoters of downtown and the arts community.
Jewell and Dekker plan on showing “The Banner of Hope” at Ted’s Fun on the River after American Craft Week. An Ed Taylor video of the production will be played, while the public will be encouraged to continue to leave messages of commitment for positive change.