Legendary Town- Legendary Co-op
by Judy Yescalis
Whatever one chooses to call it- historic mining town, former ghost town or officially designated Historic Landmark, there is no denying that Jerome, Arizona is legendary. In this unique spot on the U.S. map, dreams have been born and laid to rest beneath the summit of Cleopatra Hill for decades.
One of those dreams, however, is still very much alive and well in the year 2011. In a town that once boasted a population of 15,000 (later as few as 50), visitors will currently find over 30 working art studios and galleries, including the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery- known by locals and its 34 member artists as JAC. The co-op was created in 1996 by a group of 17 dedicated dreamers who envisioned a business owned and run by local artists working together for the good of both artists and community. In the course of its very successful fifteen years, the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery has become nearly as legendary as the town that spawned it.
It’s not hard to find parallel characteristics between the legendary town and its legendary co-op. According to a Jerome Chamber of Commerce publication inserted in the gallery Visitor Information notebook, “The workers who sought wealth from the mine’s were a brave and raucous mix.”
‘Brave’ would aptly describe the co-op artists who have been known to (politely) face off with visiting dog owners by requiring them to carry their pseudo-kids in their arms to prevent accidental ‘watering’ of long velour designer skirts which might trigger a loveable pooch’s natural territorial instincts.
As for the ‘raucous’ individuals, many an artist running the sales desk has been known to repeat descriptive tall (sometimes even truthful) tales of the region in public, causing fits of rowdy laughter to resonate throughout the 94 year old hotel Jerome on any given day and hour.
“A cosmopolitan mix of (of people) added to Jerome’s rich life and filled its streets with excitement.”
Indeed, the co-op is populated with a diverse group of people, including youth (well- more or less) and young at heart, home-bodies and travelers, professionals and amateurs, conservatives and hippies; what more excitement could one ask for than a typical monthly meeting where the whole bunch comes together for two hours of mandatory consensus and decision making!
“Jerome was the talk of the Territory- a boomtown of its times.”
Over the years, the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery has attracted the attention of visitors from around the state, country and world as well as that of local residents, due mainly to the quality of art and the large collection of works- from scenic bookmarks to fine art and much much more. Thanks to readers of the local "Verde Independent", the popular gallery has been voted Favorite Art Gallery in 2005, ‘06, ‘07, ‘09 and 2010.
“Jerome has always been a survivor; today it is very much alive with artists, musicians, historians and families… working together.”
The secret of longevity and success for both the town and its art co-op can be found in the mutual support and spirit of co-operation at their very core. Calligraphy Artist Sid Freeman recalls how, more than once in her 14 year tenure at the Co-op, her colleagues have come forward to help in times of family crisis and personal illness- jumping in to cover shifts and lend a helping hand. “Being in JAC is like being in an extended family; like real families, there is some ‘head-banging’ on occasion, but we get over it and really care for each other.”
The public is invited to join the artists as they whoop it up in celebration of their fifteenth year as a cooperative gallery with a special four week Membership Show/Exhibition. Each member-artist must display original works but is free to express ideas in both juried and non-juried format. For more information about the artists and their works, go to http://www.jeromecoop.com/
What: Jerome Artists Cooperativer Gallery 15th Anniversary Membership Show and Celebration opening
When: Saturday, July 2nd , 2011. Show runs through August 3rd. Opening fiesta is 5:30pm-8:00pm, during Jerome's popular First Saturday ARTwalk.
Where: 502 Main Street, Jerome, Arizona 86331
Info: phone: 928-639-4276 email: Info@jeromecoop.com