Jerome B. Meadows is a full-time fine artist who was born in NYC and raised in both the Bronx and Harlem. He relocated to Savannah in 1997 upon having been commissioned to create a large-scale public art project in our area, and since that time has resided in an historic Ice House on the city’s East Side. The space doubles as both his private sculptor’s studio and an open-to-the-public space known as Indigo Sky Community Gallery. Meadows said he pursued a career in engineering until flunking out of vocational school and eventually “accepting that art was my calling.”
He holds a bachelor of fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design and an master of fine arts from the University of Maryland, and specializes in the design, fabrication and installation of site-specific public art throughout the USA. The recipient of a 2013 National Endowment of the Arts grant for the creation of art which “meets the highest standards of excellence,” Meadows has held residencies and teaching positions throughout this country at such admired institutions as Howard University and the College of Charleston, as well as in France and Pakistan.
Jerome recalled that as a child coming of age in a Bronx tenement building, he often found his interests reaching beyond the confines of his immediate surroundings—as when he sat at his dining room table instinctively drawing multitudes of horses. “I began to realize the power of art and your imagination to counter and dream beyond limited situations and circumstances,” said the artist. Meadows described his early artistic pursuits contributing to him being seen as “very much a lone sheep” in his family. While none of his immediate relatives were similarly inclined, his parents were greatly supportive of his creative efforts.
Later, as he made his way through life he would receive more “inspiration and support” from his “adopted family of mentors.” In the mid-1970s, while employed for two years through a now-defunct federal program as the City Artist in Albany, N.Y., he created two outdoor works – one in a residential neighborhood and the other on elementary school grounds. In an early opportunity to fulfill his “Michelangelo fantasies,” he carved the residential piece by hand from an eight-ton block of limestone.
Currently he has two different commissioned pieces in varying stages of completion, including a public piece commemorating the 1906 lynching of an African-American man by a Chattanooga, Tenn. mob. The man, it should be noted, had been previously found innocent by the U.S. Supreme Court in an historic verdict. This type of project, Meadows noted, “is very much in keeping with my focus as a public artist.”
One of the most notable and internationally-known artists presently residing in Savannah, Meadows just returned from a trip to Prague (his favorite city in the world) and welcomed any and all interested in both his own work and upcoming activities taking place at Indigo Sky Community Gallery to find him and that unique facility online. “Much to my surprise, I seem to be highly Googleable,” he remarked with a smile.
Ever been a member of a fraternity? “Never, as that would be in opposition to what I call my anti-herding gene.”
Most memorable museum exhibition you’ve ever attended? “Finally, about four years ago, I got to see the work of my hero Michelangelo in person: ‘David’ and his so-called ‘Slave Series.’ These works have long been an inspiration.”
Three LPs which never fail to inspire you creatively? “Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew;’ Herbie (The Magnificent) Hancock’s ‘Head Hunters;’ and pretty much anything by Bobby McFerrin.”
Do you play any musical instruments yourself? “In high school I played trombone, although my preference was to play flute, which I never did. My current and only instrument has been the African thumb piano, a.k.a. the Kalimba.”
Longest period of time you’ve ever spent working on a single piece of art? “The current project in Chattanooga is already about two years in and still has a way to go.”
Do you tend to dream in color or black and white? “My dreams are pretty much always in 3D and 4D.”
Would you rather walk leisurely for 50 miles or run full speed for five miles? “Leisurely for 50 miles, since the getting there is what it’s all about.”
One movie you never tire of rewatching? “’Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance.’”
Chili or stew? “Vegetarian? Chili!”
One negative personality trait you’ve struggled mightily to overcome? “Get back to me on this one, I'll let you know when I've overcome it.”
Three books (or publications) you adored as a child? “‘The Hobbit’ by Tolkien; ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ by Irving Stone; ‘Mad Magazine.’”
Will there ever come a time when artistic pursuits are more important to society than they are right now? “We reached that point of importance a long time ago, which is why the powers that be work so hard to thwart it out of fear of losing control. Add to my favorite books: ‘The Courage to Create’ by Rollo May.”
Romance or finance? “That's easy — money follows passion.”
Juggling or magic? “All effective magic requires being adept at juggling.”
What two things do you miss most about NYC? “1: Traveling at the speed of accomplishment. 2: A variety of ethnic communities; neighborhoods with character before gentrification made them uninhabitable for people with character.”
One thing Savannah could teach the Bronx? “That question works best when turned around.”
Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, Bob Marley, Cat Stevens or none of the above? “If Nina, Cat and both Bob’s walked into a bar after a gig I'd be happy to put the first and second rounds on me.”
You and Donald Trump are locked alone in a room for 15 minutes. What would you say or do? “That's a difficult one, since 15 minutes is either way too long or far too short.”
What has brought you the most joy in the past 90 days? “Engaging my inner nomad by expanding my vision through traveling to new and distant places.”
First thing you would do as Mayor of Savannah? “Wonder how the hell that ever happened!”
Each week, 20 Questions features a different noteworthy figure of the local arts community in a quick Q&A session curated by veteran writer Jim Reed. Read more at dosavannah.com.