January 4, 2008

Friends on Friday Presents Dr. Jerry Kenneth Schwehm!

I had really taken this week off to reflect. Then I began to wonder what it was I was reflecting on. Then, while surfing on the web and responding to email and notes I came across another friend. As you most of you know, I typically lead up to the Friday post all week, but we'll change things up a bit! Dr. Jerry will be our weekend guest! His "Lighthouse" series has become my reflection, but more on that tomorrow!

First let's meet the gentleman who is both our "Friends On Friday" guest, our Saturday post AND our NOLA SUNDAYS all in one! WOW!!! He is really great!!

Dr. Jerry, your bio states that your education in the 1970s led you to receive your BA and JD from Louisiana State University; what were your plans for yourself during that time period? Did you indulge any artistic inclinations at that time? If so, what were they?
I have painted and taken art classes all my life. When I was in college at LSU I took a few courses. I even did silk screen prints for Christmas cards in the late 1960's. I designed slogans for clubs and painted windows at Christmas time for decorations as an undergraduate. After Law School I was very busy but managed to paint and carve a few things. I did a set of Kachina Dolls one summer I still have but the time has taken its toll on them. It wasn't until I partially retired that I had time to really paint things.

You shared with me that you can find health in "the fun and enjoyment of painting and viewing art." Tell us what you mean.
Stress relief. Viewing art can evoke an emotion. I like the pleasant things, calm, and friendly. I hope most of my art evokes an emotion that takes away stress and brings a happy memory to the viewer. Of course painting for me relieves stress which helps in today's hectic life. I am told too much stress can cause a lot of health problems.

What moved you to pastoral work and obtaining your Honorary Doctoral of Divinity?
After becoming a Lay Minister I volunteered to help out other Ministers through a Ministerial Alliance. I would especially help out in Revivals and Easter Services. I would also counsel people about legal issues for a few church organizations. One such group desired to honor my service to them by granting me an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. It was a way for them to show me thanks for helping them.

What do you find most rewarding from marrying people?
I enjoy meeting people. The wedding is a special time for people and being a part of that is special to me. Having the ability to make that day easy and comfortable for people who are otherwise distracted by all that goes into getting married is something I like to do.

What do you love most about NOLA?
Everything, the food the people, the spirit, the history, the buildings the lake, the river the large oak tress and the streetcars.

Tell us about Fig Street Studio? You were victimized by Katrina. Was your experience, where you tragically lost your precious art pieces, a complete devastation, or were you able to salvage some things and some piece of mind? Loss is a motivator and a growing tool, in my humble opinion, having lost all of my literature and wedding mementos back in 1997 when the Desplaines River flooded Chicago. It is rough but renewing, how do you view your loss?
My art studio was in a big two story double in the Carrollton area, on Fig Street naturally. My entire family lived there. My son and his wife on one side and my two daughters and I. on the other. The storm flooded my neighborhood so we never were able to get back. Lucky for me most of my valuable stuff was moved upstairs by my daughter who left last. She said she felt she should put things up higher. The loss came to some personal items in sheds and the packing and moving of everything. As my kids had to get back to work they all rented right away so the house was empty and I moved to my cabin in the woods of the North Shore. The house had extensive wind and water damage from part of the roof blowing off and a lot of plumbing breaking. After we got things fixed we sold it never sleeping another night there after the storm.
The sad thing is we are all in different places now. Once we were right next door, now my son is in Philadelphia, my girls 45 miles from me. But I do have a lot more time to paint and a new space to paint in at my studio in the country.

What are your favorite expressions? I love the pieces Nancy

and Starry Night Riverboat.

Do you prefer painting scenes, people, NOLA or all of the above?

I love to paint, people, pets, places. I have no real preference all I need is the inspiration. I painted a friend's pet dog for as his Christmas present from his daughter. It was a real fun thing to do. Everyone enjoyed the art and I enjoyed doing it. Nancy was a special present for my daughters and Nancy's parents. It is a way of telling them there were good times and a beautiful person once and we will not forget.

My experience with Katrina, has been a renewed love for NOLA. My Gran instilled the love in me but I took NOLA for granted. I am thankful for Katrina because she brought me to so many wonderful New Orleanians and their stories.
How can we help? You mention restoring your studio, restoring the lighthouse, and I am very passionate about restoring NOLA, the people and the place, will you keep us posted on what we can do? How we can assist and any NOLA needs?

The New Basin Canal Lighthouse has a restoration committee. All of New Orleans can be helped by people visiting when possible. There are many groups doing things. I can be helped by people buying my art either prints, tiles, or the other gift items from the Fig Street Studio.

info@figstreet.com is my e-mail contact.

Thanks Dr. Jerry, more tomorrow!

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