To walk into the home of Jim Shumate is to be immediately surrounded by his artistry. With sponges, rags, brushes, and fingers, he has enhanced almost every wall of the house with delicate patterns in delicious colors.
The stairwell leading to what had been an earlier living room for Jim and his spouse, Gil Garcia, has been transformed into a fantastic landscape of salmon-colored mesas. Steel gray birds of exquisite detail circle and dive, inviting the climber to the upper floor.
Jim Shumate’s extraordinary murals have transformed other people’s homes as well. A waterfall cascades for two stories, a school of six-foot-high tropical fish surround an indoor pool, and a Kentucky Derby race is depicted from start to finish on all four walls of a game room. The realistic detail transports viewers to another world. Jim, who got to know his customers well as he spent the many months it would take to complete a mural, thinks people “… like the idea of living in a painting.”
Born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in 1946, Shumate knew he would be an artist at an early age. He feels that art chose him. “I didn’t choose it,” he said, “it’s just what I always did.” He attended the Minneapolis School of Art in the 1960s. After graduating, he was employed by Dayton’s department store as a designer, and later in the same position with Brave New World Workshop dinner theatre. The assignments completed for these large spaces foreshadowed his interest in murals.
Shumate lived and worked in the Arlington, Virginia, area for a time, where Gil helped promote his business. In 1990, the couple moved to Harpers Ferry (WV).
The area of their home where Jim and Gil do most of their living now is a roomy, sunlit addition on the ground level. The walls between the large windows display works the couple have collected and some they have done themselves. It is there that Shumate greets his visitors with a warm smile from a wheelchair. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with Corticobasal Degeneration. This condition has made it difficult for him to walk and speak, and he can no longer create his beautiful work. Gil cares for him, tending to his needs and making sure he gets to his doctor’s appointments and physical therapy sessions.
On Sunday, March 11, from 5-8pm, there will be a celebratory gathering at the Shepherdstown Community Club (102 E. German St.) to honor Shumate and recognize his achievements. The festivities will include a silent art auction of local artists’ work, including paintings, photography, fiber art, ceramics, and more. There will also be food by Carol Sanders and music by the string trio, The Panhandlers.
Donations at the door and proceeds from the auction will go to the local “neighbors helping neighbors” group: Good Shepherd Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers. The event promises to be a lot of fun and will be a great way to show Jim and Gil the community’s caring support.By Staff Contributor