In Julia's House

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I moved to be like Julia.

That's silly, I know. Does a house foster welcomed change? It can. But can it turn over a creative leaf for someone? Not sure about that one.

In 2006, my late husband Charley, our two boys and I moved to a house we had always coveted on our Meridian-Kessler block. It was a charmer with pink roses dotting the white picket fence. Clapboard with old wood shutters and paved brick walkways. Dating back to the 1920s, the house was perfect for a family. It was straight out of Father Knows Best all the way.

But the picturesque personality of the house was not the true draw for me. The bigger and stronger one was that this house was the home of artist, friend and neighbor Julia Wickes.

She had raised her three girls there while being happily married to Jack, an artist both with his camera and quick wit. Along with PTA meetings and law firm soirees, Julia earned her BFA in Art from Herron. Her living room became her studio. Canvasses replaced knick-knacks and an easel was propped up in lieu of a couch. As Charley and I went through the home with Jack and Julia, I noticed the paint drippings on the wood floor.

Ordinarily that might turn a homebuyer off, but for me it did the opposite. Those paint drippings got me thinking. I could be an artist. I could fill that same living room with paint brushes and multiple hues of oil paints. I could step into the space that so inspired Julia and have it inspire me. But as I approach our seventh year in this dear old home, I wonder - is it the space that inspires the artist or the artist that inspires the space?

My oldest son and two of his friends agreed to visit Julia and Jack's studio at the Stutz Building. I'm sure most of you have traversed through this building at one time or another. Most likely you had a drink in hand as you mixed and mingled with a crowd during a Stutz weekend open house. For the four of us, though, it was a quiet Friday afternoon with a spring rain and ample parking. I will never get over the enormity of this building. It's not so much the size but the way it spreads itself over the block. We entered studio #335 and were greeted with canvasses of color and photographs of moments.

The boys did what I expected them to do. First they made a beeline to the snacks Julia had laid out. Then they took in the couple's work. A question here, a question there, then a furious game of tag in the Escher-like hallways, returning again for more snacks and another question, another look.

The studio is what you might expect; filled with light, character and work. When I asked Julia if she found that she produced more work here at her studio rather than at home, she didn't hesitate as she answered, "Studio." And yet, Jack, who despite having a large but yet empty studio desk, works better in the comfort of home where fridge, toothbrush and television share the space with his artistic process.

So I think I still haven't determined the answer to my question about space creating art or the artist creating the space. Even though my living room is just that - a living room - it also is home to my large desk where the practical (bills) and the less-than-practical (dreams) are addressed. It is mostly a room for family life but also a quarter for something else: emerging thoughts, ideas and stories.

Secretly, I hope that by being in a space where artist and work and inspiration all reside in no particular order, perhaps my oldest will make a mental note and create a similar place yet all his own for his creative endeavors. But then again, maybe - and this is just as good - he will plop down wherever he is and create what lives in his heart.

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