Encore Story Published about owner Jim Starkey:AFTER A CELEBRATED CAREER AS A PHOTOJOURNALIST, THIS ENCORE RETURNED TO HIS FIRST LOVE -- PAINTINGAs a youngster, Jim Starkey’s father was as apt to ask him not only “What happened in scho...[Read more]
Encore Story Published about owner Jim Starkey:AFTER A CELEBRATED CAREER AS A PHOTOJOURNALIST, THIS ENCORE RETURNED TO HIS FIRST LOVE -- PAINTINGAs a youngster, Jim Starkey’s father was as apt to ask him not only “What happened in school today?,” but also “So, do you think you’ll ever amount to much?”He chuckles good-naturedly. “I don’t know if I have,” he answers, “but that idea of being worthwhile has always stuck and I don’t mean financially.”Meet a guy who earned his first dollar working as a pre-teen in a carnival and lost his mother at 17 and his father just five years later.By then, Jim was already an old hand at the newspaper business, as he started shooting photos as a “stringer” for his hometown newspaper in Downer’s Grove, Illinois while still in high school.But even as he completed a journalism degree at the University of Missouri and went to work at a career that spanned 37 years at The Grand Rapids Press (The Press), Jim kept one hand on the artist’s palette, leaning on classes he had taken not only through community education programs, but at the esteemed Art Institute of Chicago.He and his photo staff won awards during the 1970s and 1980s that garnered The Press national attention on numerous occasions. And these days, he still loves shooting black and white images that capture people and their personalities.What he’s accelerated since retiring from The Press in 2007, though, is his art – vibrant paintings that capture the work and whimsy of everyday people both here in Michigan and in the Mexican village of Sayulita, where he and wife Maria own a year-round casita.“When I was little, I made a lot of art on my own. I remember getting copies of “Arizona Highways” and I would sketch those photos with pastels -- the cacti and the sunsets and the highways.”As he matured, Jim realized that “I wasn’t enough of a go-getter to make a living at art…so I became a photographer.”During news meetings, he remembers “making little scales where I would grade places on their scenery, the food, how easy it was to get there and are the girls pretty. And after my first time to Sayulita, its score always ended up higher than anywhere else.”A bit of a maverick even at an early age, Jim appreciated a paint-by-number set given to him by his grandparents, but he ignored the number scheme in favor of laying in his own colors wherever he wanted.That technique persisted some, as his paintings reflect intense color, contrast and texture.While he and Maria winter in their Mexican haven, they also keep a place above the old Peck’s drugstore building in Grand Rapids at the northeast corner of Monroe Center and N. Division Avenue. They live above Jim’s studio, which doubles as a gallery he shares with other artists – a lively scene where passersby can watch artists in action while pondering a purchase or discussing a commissioned work.“Have you ever been to an art gallery where people are working?” Jim asks. “There aren’t a lot of places like that. And we really enjoy talking to people; we’re even a little giddy about it.”Of course, given the fact they’re located in the hub of downtown Grand Rapids, not everyone stops in for the sake of art.Every now and then, says Jim, someone comes in and asks, “Say, do you have some quarters for the meter?”ABOUT ENCOREEncore is a burgeoning national movement created to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world. Encore sets out to define this new stage of life. An Encore can combine work, service and social impact.Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Encore is leading the way in Kent County by seeking to inspire individuals in their 50s and beyond to engage in meaningful work and service that makes a difference. In addition, we seek to challenge organizations in our community to pave the way and increase their capacity for experienced talent by identifying innovative pathways and opportunities for service.