(Posted Dec. 13, 2018)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
When Howard Wade Jr. and his wife, Linda, travel around Ohio, public displays of art are among their favorite discoveries.
They marvel at the sheer size of some of the pieces and are deeply affected by the hometown pride behind them. They’ve often talked about how they would like to see something similar in their town.
Eventually, private wishing was not enough. Wade, a West Jefferson village council member, got to the point where every time he passed by the town gazebo, he would mutter to himself that the neighboring building would be the perfect spot for a mural.
“I kind of got obsessed with the idea,” Wade said with a laugh.
That was nearly two years ago, but recently he has become more outspoken about the idea.
He brought it up to his fellow council members, fluttered the idea by several residents, and spoke with area business owners about their interest in establishing a public-private partnership to commission a mural.
Much to his surprise and delight, the interest was great.
“I heard so much positive feedback,” Wade said. “Of course, now that the word is really getting out there, I might get a different sort of reaction, but I really hope that people will be receptive to the idea.”
In the past year, Wade has spoken with multiple artists about painting a mural and to get an idea how much such a project would cost. Currently, local artist Hilary Frambes is slated to take on the project, should it come to fruition. With an early cost estimate of $20,000, Wade has been taking steps to see the project through.
“I’ve been asking everyone I can,” he said.
One of the most important things regarding this project, he said, is the input and interest from the community. He has put together a mural committee to gather ideas from the community for how the mural can honor West Jefferson’s past and present.
“People who don’t live in West Jefferson think the only thing we have is the Ox Roast, but we are so much more than that,” Wade said. “We are a community, with a rich history, that is going places. I want people to look at that mural and see and feel the pride that we have in our town. And the people who live here should have a say in what will [go on it].”
Due to the projected cost, Wade knows it may take some time to raise the funds necessary to create the mural. He also knows that family can sometimes offer the best advice when you need it the most.
Several weeks ago, Wade was talking with his son, Keenan, about the scope of the project when Keenan suggested putting on a benefit concert.
“I guess I’ll take the credit for this idea,” Keenan said, laughing.
Since moving to Nashville 10 years ago, the 2000 graduate of West Jefferson High School and his wife, Grace Adele, have made a name for himself in the country/bluegrass/cowboy and cowgirl, western swing band world.
“They’re a very talented musical duo,” Wade gushed about his son and daughter-in-law.
For years, Keenan and Grace Adele have traveled the region as The Farmer and Adele, winning hearts and fans with their “old school-style” performances of classic folk songs and original songs.
Wade said that while the two have been very busy, they always find time to come back to West Jefferson for the holidays, though he never expected them to offer their talents to put on a benefit concert for the mural project.
“They were just so willing to do it,” he said. “I didn’t have to beg them or anything.”
Keenan said it was something he and his wife wanted to do.
“We think it is very important to give back to your community in some way,” he said. “I have a lot of great memories of the place where I grew up, and I think it will be wonderful to come back and perform for the community.”
In addition to Keenan Wade and Grace Adele, West Jefferson native Chase Potter will perform at the benefit concert.
“Chase is an amazing talent,” said Keenan. “I’ve known him since he was 14 or 15, and I’ve always been so impressed and blown away by what he is able to do.
“All together, I think we will be able to put on a great sing-along concert that I hope the community will be able to enjoy.”
Also a West Jefferson graduate, Potter started playing violin at 5 years old and went on to pick up many other instruments. He traveled overseas with the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra and earned a full ride scholarship to the Berklee College of Music.
While in college, Potter performed with the likes of Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter lalah Hathaway and the Scottish india rock band, Belle & Sebastian.
Since relocating to New York City in 2016, Potter has performed as a featured violin soloist with Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln Center, played violin on “The Tonight Show” with Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello, and played a guitar player on the season finale of HBO’s “The Deuce.” He regularly performs live as a solo act and with a full band and has created original music for the majority of his career.
The benefit concert, “A Country Western Christmas Spectacular,” will take place on Dec. 24 at the West Jefferson Community Center, 221 S. Center Street. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. and the show begins at 2. Admission is $5 and all proceeds go to the West Jefferson mural fund. Guests are also welcome to offer suggestions as to what should be on the mural. A potential location for the mural is the Chevron Pools building near the gazebo next to town hall in downtown West Jefferson.