Jamie Sims Coakley
April's "Artist in Residence" at the Beard And Lady Inn, Chester Arkansas!
When my mother broke her ankle badly last September and needed my help, I had no idea exactly what that trip to Chester and my six weeks there would bring. I went with an open heart and mind and the intention to be of service to my mother and my family and so many beautiful connections were made.
One of those was with the owner of the Beard And Lady Inn, Lacey Hendrix.
While at my mothers, I began walking the mile down the tree lined dirt road into town for a coffee at the local "Chester Cafe" and back a couple of times a week. Chester is a tiny town in North West Arkansas half way between Ft. Smith and Fayetteville with a population of 110 as of the 2019 census. There is a cafe, a post office, free range dogs, a railroad track, a beautiful creek and an old hotel that dates back to 1887, which was in the process of being renovated while I was there.
One morning, the coffee shop was closed and so I decided to walk the block further and check out the progress at the hotel. As I got close to the front door, a beautiful woman with long black hair and big round glasses came out and turned toward me. It was Lacey, and as we started talking, I immediately felt a connection to her. She mentioned they were pushing hard for their grand opening which would be in a few weeks and showed me around the Inn. It was magnificent! A week or so later I volunteered a days labor in support of the herculean effort they were under taking and a wonderful friendship was born.
Of course the storyteller in me was instantly inspired by Lacey's journey and with the Inn specifically (she exemplifies the answer to my favorite question "What would you create if you had no fear?") and after discussing making a mini documentary about Lacey and the Beard and Lady, we traveled to Arkansas over Christmas to start shooting the mini documentary and my whole family spent a wonderful night at the inn for my mother's birthday on New Years Eve.
Part of experience visiting with and caring for my mother last year led me to want to visit more often. My happiest childhood memories are from the Ozark mountains where we lived from the time I was four years old to eight years old. Plus, my whole family lives there now and so I made a plan to spend April in Chester with mom, revising Freehand 2173 and finishing up the mini documentary.
As Lacey and I were planning and discussing the trip, she was gracious enough to offer the Inn for me as a place to write and work on the novel. That quickly evolved into a broader vision where I will be the Inn's very first "Artist in Residence" for the month of April! Part of this undertaking will include the challenge of writing a series of 100 word stories (ala 100wordstory.org) inspired by the Inn and Chester.
I can not wait to share my experiences and inspiration with you all in the coming month!
If you do not already follow me on IG you can do so @jamiesimscoakley and the Beard And Lady Inn @beardandladyinn keep up with our adventures.
Also, I will be posting the 100 word stories here as blogs as well as on IG with photos from the Inn and town!
Finally, we will be Zooming Live this Friday from the Inn and will feature my good friend and talent vocalist (among other things) Carmen Rimple! We plan on singing a Bonnie Guitar song or two and then exploring with you the importance of music to the creative process! If you'd like to join us, please RSVP under "Events" at jamiesimscoakley.com.
I sincerely ope this finds you all well and Happy Springtime!