The James Dean I Never Knew

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David Marmer standing beside his art at the Holiday Pop Up Shop at the Centrum Mall in downtown Marion, Indiana

Today on my way home from my day job, I drove past the Centrum Mall which I always look at with longing as I drive by because that was where my bookstore was located for two years and that is the place I have always envisioned as an artist hub, sort of like the Soho of Grant County, Indiana. Hey, a girl can dream. In fact, I’m not the only one with that dream, Pamela Schlechty founder of the Creative CommUnity has tirelessly pursued her dream of supporting local arts at the Centrum. She is always doing community events to help small business owners and showcase the amazing artistic talent in our community.

Pamela’s latest brainchild is the Holiday Pop Up Shop which is a storefront at the Centrum that features local art. I noticed a poster promoting their Open House and some balloons as I drove by and decided to stop in and check it out.


Pamela was there and introduced me to David Marmer an artist who has a passion for repairing, enhancing and playing djembe drums. David said he started playing the drum at age two! The carved wood designs he puts on the drums are beautiful.

I noticed a huge colorful painting next to one of the drums. I was curious to know more about the painting. David said it took two years off and on to complete the painting. Then he told me what inspired the painting and I couldn’t believe it. How could I not know?!

David said the painting was inspired by a poem written by James Dean. I have lived in James Dean country for 35 years and I did not know he wrote poetry! I’m not quite sure how I could have missed that since I also write poetry. In fact, I attended a writing workshop at the James Dean Gallery a few years ago that was facilitated by a huge James Dean fan, Pamela DesBarres. During the workshop, I remember her saying that locals don’t appreciate James Dean and his talent the way people in the rest of the world do. I thought, “What does she mean?” We have the James Dean Festival every year that attracts people from all over the world.

When I got home, I Googled James Dean poetry. Not only did I discover a book of his poems, I found out he was also an artist. In an instant, I understood what Pamela DesBarres meant. Not only was James Dean a gifted actor, he was a poet and artist – a creative soul who continues to inspire others to create art a half century after his death. What a legacy!

I can’t wait to read the book of James Dean’s poems. In the meantime, I’m making another trip to the Holiday Pop Up Shop to support local artists. I hope if you are in the area, you make a point of stopping by the Centrum and checking out David Marmer’s drums and art in addition to the other talented artists who have their heart on display.

Write on.


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