Area artists team to help Alexa Austin and Alzheimer's TN

Three area artists have partnered with Newport teenager Alexa Austin to create a beautiful 2020 calendar. Sales of the calendar will go to Alzheimer’s TN. Holding the new calendar, from left, are Jim Palmer, Austin, Ken Jenkins, and Bobby Minnick.

NEWPORT—A collaborative effort on the part of three area artists, a community spirited businesswoman, and a remarkable teenager has resulted in a beautiful calendar for 2020.

Proceeds from the calendar sales will go to Alzheimer’s Tennessee, a project dear to the heart of Alexa Austin, who has gained national recognition for her efforts to raise money for research into the disease and finding a cure. Alexa’s dedication to the cause was sparked by the loss of her great-grandfather, J.L. Austin, to Alzheimer’s when she was 11 years old.

Alexa is 16 now and a student at King’s Academy. In addition to maintaining a high grade-point average and her spot on the varsity volleyball team, she has raised thousands of dollars each year for Alzheimer’s Tennessee, a group dedicated to making Alzheimer’s a memory. Alexa’s team, “Memory Patrol,” has consistently been among the top fundraisers in East Tennessee.

This year Alexa’s fundraising projects include proceeds from the sale of a 2020 calendar.

Paintings by Jim Palmer join photographs of wildlife and scenery by Ken Jenkins and birds by Bobby Minnick in the calendar. Newport businesswoman Tammy Francis of Smoky Mountain Home Health & Hospice recognized the importance of the project and underwrote all costs of publication.

All three artists, Palmer, Jenkins, and Minnick, are Cocke County natives.

The images for January, March, July, and November feature the photography of area birds by Minnick. Beginning with the January photo of a brilliant cardinal perched on a snow-covered branch, his works also appear in March with an osprey gliding close to lake waters, July with a ruby-throated hummingbird and November with an American bald eagle.

Minnick, son of Jo Ruble Minnick Foust and the late Hagan Minnick, grew up in Newport and later spent four years in the US Air Force. After twenty-five years in the corporate world, during which he lived and worked all across the United States, Minnick returned to Newport a few years ago.

Palmer’s early years were spent in the Fowler’s Grove and Glendale communities. After graduating from Cocke County High School in 1961, he joined the US Navy and while in service, continued his education at Memphis State and UT. In 1969, he returned to East Tennessee, settling in Morristown, where he worked as a pharmacist until 2006. In 1989 he began painting “as a release from stress,” he says and has been active in area art, library, and senior citizens groups.

Palmer’s watercolors are featured in February, May, August, and October and include a show scene, spring flowering trees, summertime along a creek, and a fall river scene. His painting of spring flowering trees strongly resembles the Impressionist works of artists such as Monet.

Jenkins, a 1969 Cocke County High School graduate, is a descendant of such early Cocke County pioneers as “Virginia John” Wood and Bartlett Sisk, who settled early along the Pigeon River in today’s Edwina community.

For nearly 40 years he has lived and worked in Gatlinburg where he has his own photography gallery and publishing business. Jenkins is an internationally known photographer whose works often feature East Tennessee mountain scenes and wildlife.

He says, “Alexa’s project is near to my heart, and I am very thankful for every participant and supporter.”

Jenkins’ photographs include those of waterfalls (April), two black bear cubs (June), a panoramic mountain scene (September), and a starkly beautiful snow scene (December).

The calendars are $20 each and are now available at Manes Funeral Home.

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