The historic district of Jim Thorpe, hidden amid mountains and largely isolated from the late-20th Century redevelopment, has in recent years, with its rugged landscape and ornate Victorian buildings, become a Mecca for talented, often quirky, artists.
But perhaps never so much as on Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Art Marathon, sponsored by the Anita Shapolsky Art Foundation. Noted for its shows of vintage abstract impressionist art, the foundation kicked "quirky" up a notch as it awarded a major prize to an artist that, under the guidelines, should have been too young to enter.
Six-year-old Cody Meckes of Penn Forest Township skipped away with a $75 prize in the Most Original Overall category. His abstract painting depicting bottles of soda and iced tea on a brick received accolades from the panel of judges, which included foundation director Anita Shapolsky, and award-winning abstract painters Joel LeBow and Amaranth Ehrenhalt.
Ehrenhalt likened young Meckes' work to that of Pablo Picasso, who was quoted as saying, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
Cody's work competed with amateur and professional artists, several that came to the foundation from Philadelphia. While these mostly adults, aging into their seventies, often had far greater training, the judges felt that Cody's work demonstrated a creativity largely unvarnished by training.
Although the paintathon was officially open only to those 10 years and older, a special dispensation was granted to Cody and his sister, Cheyenne because they had taken a workshop at the foundation several weeks earlier.
Cody, Cheyenne and their father, Ed Meckes, all put brush to board in the competition. Cheyenne captured the Most Original in the Children's Category, while Cody took the Most Original Overall. Dad walked away with no prizes but with two beaming children.
"I won $75 and she won $25," Cody said of his sister's prize.
"I feel mad at him," Cheyenne said, "because I wish I got it. It was pretty weird when I heard that he won the $75 out of the whole contest. I didn't think they would have a kid win."
His mother, Kristin Meckes, named the painting "Drinks on a Brick." His father joked, "It's available for $1 million or the best offer."
"Cody has been painting since he was 1 year old," said his mom. "I have his first painting. He painted with his hands and feet."
Cody hopes to invest his winnings in a new gaming system, and is now focusing his attention on going for a green belt in karate.
Other prize winners in the paintathon were: in the Adult Category: Best of Show, Anne Harrison; Most Qualified, Jean Plough; Honorable Mention, Betty Johnson; and in the Children's Category: Best of Show, Emily Oldt; Most Original, Cheyenne Meckes; Honorable Mention, Cody Meckes.
It was the first time at painting for Betty Johnson, 71, of Lehighton. She came with her daughter, Tecu'Mish MunHaKe. Johnson painted a seascape while MunHaKe, an assemblage artist, painted designs on a bowl.
"The mother and daughter were having such a good time that they were not even saying a word," said event coordinator Shirley Thomas. "Everyone was very quiet and concentrated."
As the painters created their masterpieces, they were inspired by background classical accordion music by Doug Makofka.
"It is the first time we had a painting marathon here," said Shapolsky. "We hope to do more."