Set #6: Jim Fitzgerald

Before I met anyone on Lower Greenville, I was just another pair of eyes on the corner watching the movement of people in and out of the coffee shop. I had seen Jim hanging around for a few months before I ever met him. Every time I saw him he was painting, writing, or deep in conversation with someone. Then a strange thing began to happen. As I became more familiar with people in the neighborhood and around the coffee shop, they started to ask me, “Have you met Jim?” After the third inquiry, I had had enough. So one Saturday last spring, I asked Pete to introduce me. That was all she wrote. We spoke for over an hour on the sidewalk that evening, and have been the best of friends ever since. Throughout the course of a lifetime you brush shoulders with many people, however it is rare to find someone who unfailingly adheres to a philosophy and lives their life with conviction and purpose, with the clarity of thought that Jim does. He has developed a level of understanding and tolerance for people that I never thought possible. His ability to recognize the complexities of life in all its tedious intricacies and then translate that into an inexorable respect for other people, no matter who they are, is something I admire most about him. “People are becoming more and more isolated, the commercial says that everyone is actually getting more connected to one another when that’s not the case at all... and that’s a dangerous place to be for human beings.” Jim argues that music lends a hand in shortening that gap in connectivity, and in an effort to combat that distance, he doesn’t categorize or throw blankets over groups of people. He interacts with people individually. There have been countless days where I was spinning in circles and Jim was able to pull me out of my counterproductive thinking within moments, and I know I’m not the only one.

After spending time on both coasts in the cultural meccas of New York City and San Francisco, Jim settled in the middle of the country to pursue a career in radio during the early days of KERA. Though he has since retired, Jim’s artistic output is arguably unmatched. He is ALWAYS creating something. His ingenuity and inventiveness stretches across a variety of mediums from painting to writing to woodwork to building specially designed PA systems. A lot of his creativity stems from a voracious interest in everything from psychotherapy to politics, however his main inspiration is firmly embedded in music, and I have found that to be the underlying theme in his artwork. Often times I will find him on the patio of Mudsmith painting in the midst of a large group of people. His method lies in letting the white noise and key words of surrounding conversations flow in and out of the artwork itself. The sounds around him have a way of dictating the piece of art he is creating. Jim and I function similarly in that respect, which is one of the primary reasons him and I share a deep-rooted connection in and through music. There's a visceral aspect of music that can't quite be explained, perhaps it's something in the way the rhythm makes people move. "Music is important...and people liking the same artist come together and share the music, talk about it and have a good time. But as people feel they don't need the difficulty of having close personal relationships with one another in person, the machine will take care of that for you."

- Brittany Griffiths