Meakin memories: Local artist steps away from her volunteer positions at fairgrounds, The North Star House
As a child, Mim Meakin lived in Alabama, and frequently crossed the state line into Columbus, Georgia to take piano lessons as, she said, most kids did in the South at that time.
One day while in the neighboring state, she saw an older man opening an art school and glimpsed the work that was to fill the institution.
She was inspired.
“I begged my mom to quit taking piano lessons and to take art,” said Meakin. She was surprised when both her mother and grandmother supported her transition.
Decades later, after Meakin left the South, she enmeshed herself in Nevada County’s art scene. In these parts, she’s been in the Pioneer Arts Club, and has been running the Children’s Art Program at The North Star House during the farmers market, in addition to volunteering at the fairgrounds.
But at 85, Meakin said she decided to stop volunteering with kids as of the first weekend of July, and may continue holding her adult art class this fall. On her last day volunteering at The North Star House, vendors from the farmers market made a basket, celebrating and honoring her, said co-volunteer Lisa Johnson.
CONSTRUCTING THE CANVAS
Meakin graduated from college with a degree in commercial art, and did a lot of drafting and graphic design during that time, she said.
Over the years, Meakin’s artistic style evolved. Earlier in her career, she said she would do portraits, several of them being depictions of her father. One such portrait, she said, won a first place award at the county fair and hung in The Union’s office for some time.
Even before she began teaching, Meakin came across two books — “Anyone Can Draw” and “Anyone Can Paint” — which likely influenced her to begin sharing her passion, and the feeling of the world fading away, leaving just her and her art while in the act of painting.
“When I get involved in it I get rid of all my problems,” she said. “I just think about my painting.”
Meakin, known by many in the county as a watercolorist, didn’t begin this particular style of work until she was living in her Palo Alto cottage. There, she said her daughter crawled through her paintings, and she begun to think watercolors might prove a safer environment for her child.
Meakin lived in Nevada County in the ’70s, but moved back home to the South to be close with her relatives, only to return again in 1988 upon her children’s requests. In 1999, she drew maps for Nevada County, and eventually retired from that job to teach, travel and continue doing what she was always engaging with.
She realized how much she enjoyed passing down her love for art when, on her grandson’s eighth birthday, he requested going to Condon Park to paint with her.
“That just melted my heart,” said Meakin. The artist acknowledged that teaching is the key to learning, and cherishes moments when she encounters former students.
“I still have kids that I taught years ago who now run up to me at Raley’s,” she said.
Johnson, her co-volunteer with the Children’s Art Program, first met her friend — “a feisty lady from Alabama” — 15 years ago when she joined the Pioneer Arts Club. Since that time, Meakin threw herself into the program with The North Star House.
“There was a couple times I missed,” she said. “She never missed.”
In the last 20 years, Meakin shifted from portraits to images of landscapes, including depictions of homes, fields, forests and waterfalls.
While on a tour through Cornwall England in 2000, Meakin said someone suggest she paint local scenery. After drafting a few pieces, some of her work has landed in the mayors offices of Bodmin and Penzance, which are sister cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City. Meakin sells prints and postcards, much of which has landed in local stores like Ben Franklin Crafts & Frames, Lazy Dog Chocolateria and SPD.
Before leaving the Children’s Arts Program as a volunteer, Meakin had painted a scene of the farmers market on cards, said Johnson, scribed vendors names in calligraphy and delivered each one to the appropriate person.
Having left the program in the farmers market, Meakin said she will continue painting in the spaces most familiar to her — the dining room table in her miner cabin home. She will also have a studio tour, which sits in her backyard, this October.
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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