Captain Ben (Aaron Dougherty) lets one of his prisoners have an earful during The Learning Center's "The Adventures of Pirate Frank." Photo by BEN KATZ

SCOUTING AROUND: Play honors late community icon; Art Walk returns Friday

   Jackie Ward was an inspiration. She was an advocate, a teacher and volunteer who was involved in many activities and organizations in the community.
    When she tragically died in an automobile accident Aug. 1, 1997, there was a great sense of loss in all the lives she touched – especially at The Learning Center in Murphy, where she had taught in the pre-pre-school (for 2-year-olds) for a couple of years before dedicating her time as a volunteer at the charter school.
    “Jackie impacted so much more than just our school,” said Mary Jo Dyre, the school’s director. “Jackie was one of those people who was out there, and if she could make a difference in someone’s life, she would.”
    Judith Wikstrom, her best friend who was traveling with her the day she died, said she was impressed with Ward’s ability to bring groundbreaking ideas to the community, and present these ideas in a simple, careful way.
    “She had a soft side to her personality that let people get comfortable with her,” Wikstrom said.
    She also went above and beyond in her work, volunteering her time to provide extra support that she saw was needed.
    “She didn’t do it for recognition. She didn’t do it for gain. She did it for the truth to her heart,” Wikstrom said. “She was exceptional.”
    Ward primarily volunteered with Guardian ad Litem as an advocate. She was also a midwife, working at the Mountain Peoples Clinic in Hayesville, and in 1989, became the prenatal educator at the Parenting Project, which is now Family Resources. She had a welcoming smile and was full of positivity, often emphasized by her curly hair.
    “She just had such a presence, a beauty, that you just can’t replace,” said Carol Reid, a friend and co-worker.
    Dyre, Wikstrom, Reid and others have tried their best to remember her as board members of the Jackie Ward Foundation for Academics & Arts. The foundation was started in 2008 during the school’s 25th anniversary, then officially incorporated and established as a non-profit the following year. Over the years, the foundation has supported school events as well as the Legend Has It History Walk along with the Brasstown Concert Association.
    “The foundation is about excelling academics and the arts,” Dyre said. “Just that kids would get extra attention, that would attract Jackie.”
    Reid said Ward would have to loved to watch the students perform The Adventures of the Fearsome Pirate Frank this weekend, knowing how important it was for students to express their creativity.
    “I could see her beaming,” Reid said.
    The Adventures of Fearsome Pirate Frank is a humorous musical in which a Shakespearean actor gets captured by the real pirate whose role he portrays on stage. Students in grades 5-8 – the GrowZone Players – are in the production. Shows are at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, plus 2 p.m. Sunday in the school’s auditorium. Tickets are $5 for students, $8 for adults.
    During intermission of the Saturday night performance, there will be a ceremony to honor the life and legacy of Ward. Following that night’s performance, the foundation will host a ticketed Jackie Ward After-Event at the Murphy Art Center to celebrate Ward and continue spreading her legacy through foundation efforts. Money raised from this fundraiser will go toward purchasing a multi-use stage and riser system for the school’s auditorium.
    The fundraising event, which begins at 8:15 p.m. will include a raffle, hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and entertainment provided by stand-up comedian Karl Snow. Tickets are $20 per person.
    Reid said the event featuring a comedian represents the happiness and smiles Ward was always spreading.
    This is the first time the foundation has done a fundraiser after one of the school’s shows. Dyre said one reason it is at the MAC instead of the school is because it is an event for adults. The other reason is because the MAC fits with Jackie’s spirit.
    “The MAC, to me, represents an effort in our community to bring more attention on the arts, and Jackie was all about that,” Dyre said.
    Dyre sees the fundraiser as an opportunity for each individual to make a difference, just as Ward made a difference.
    Tickets for both the musical and the Jackie Ward After-Event are available at the school’s office, the Curiosity Shop in downtown Murphy or at naturallygrownkids.org. Tickets also will be available at the door.

Art Walk returns Friday
    The streets will be alive with creativity Friday night, when the First Friday Art Walk returns for its sixth year in downtown Murphy from 5-8 p.m.
    Throughout the evening, visitors can walk through downtown, meet artists, see their work and sometimes even watch as they create. Participating merchants will remain open through the event. The Art Walk is held regularly the first Friday of each month from May through October.
    This first Art Walk of the season will open with a new members reception to celebrate their work at the Murphy Art Center at 5 p.m. Oil painter Tim Ford will demonstrate the palette knife style of painting and plans to complete a picture within an hour, while blues singer-songwriter Heidi Holton will be the featured musician in the downtown square.
    In addition, anyone who finds a painted rock with “VRAG” or “MAC” on it in a downtown shop or restaurant can bring the rock to the MAC for a gift certificate. Also included in the event will be the opening reception of the “Faces & Places” photojournalism exhibit in the MAC’s Cultural Calendar Room.
    “Faces & Places is the culmination of months of learning by two groups of Cherokee County high school students who enrolled in a series of photography workshops taught by local professionals, Scott Wallace and Nathan Baerreis,” David Vowell, director of the of the Cherokee County Arts Council, said in a release.
    There are 36 merchants participating in the monthly event this year, including new participants Simply Sweet Baby Boutique, A Koone’s Age, Bistro 29, Herbal Butterfly and the Hackney Warehouse. Hackney also will host a Girls’ Night Out event during the Art Walk.
    It is not too late for artists to sign up for the Art Walk, and there is no fee. For details, email Sandy Wheeler at veaginc@gmail.com.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.