The arts community lost one of its most talented and generous souls last week.
Jim Tar, co-owner with his wife, Kristin Varn Tar, of the well-known business Art on Broad, died last week after a hard, brave bout with cancer. He was just 62 but his accomplishments were more akin to someone much, much older.
How many people can you say designed and built their own home? Jim was one of ’em. He had also just started building the family’s retirement home in Beech Island that included a pond for the Tars’ four adopted dogs to swim in.
A self-taught artist who called Kentucky home before moving to Augusta some 21 years ago, Jim first worked at the Morris Museum of Art as a preparator.
“Enjoying his wonderful art and watching him build his own home from the ground up with his own two hands only hinted at some of his amazing talents,” said Greg Goodwin, who was a co-worker of Jim’s at the Morris.
“Jim unselfishly mentored me through the painting process when he asked me to do a piece for a fundraising event for First Friday. Augusta will not be the same without Jim Tar,” Goodwin said.
Dee Bruker was a good friend of Tar’s and a fellow Broad Street business owner.
“From the beginning, Jim and Kristin’s mission was to showcase local and regional art at Art on Broad for artists wanting to display their work.”
“They wanted to include every medium from painting to pottery and glass and sculpture. And it worked as their shop soon became one of Augusta’s leading galleries,” Bruker remarked.
ART AND BASEBALL DEPT. I first met Jim at an Augusta GreenJackets baseball game some 20 years ago. Jim, who lived just about a long home run from the stadium loved his baseball and everything that went with it.
I knew Jim was a very special soul when I first saw him gazing up to the sky as dusk began to settle around the ballpark. “Just look at those clouds,” he told me. “See the way the sun is being reflected on the bottom of the clouds as it sets?”
He was right. We watched together as the sun’s brilliant orange-tinged hues on the billowing clouds faded away as the day gently gave way to night. I’ve never looked at clouds the same way since. That was Jim Tar.
ART FOR ART’S SAKE DEPT. Zach Swenson, the well-known local musician, was also a close friend of Jim’s.
“One night some friends of mine whom Jim had never met walked back to his home after a game. One of my buds, Jack Craig, happened to notice a particular painting on the wall and casually mentioned just how much he loved it.”
To everyone’s surprise, Tar looked at Craig and said, “It’s yours. You can take it home with you tonight” and yanked it right off of the wall.
Craig, who lives in Seattle, had no idea that Jim had just completed the painting after months of work. That was Jim Tar.
CAPE FEAR ON THE LAKE? DEPT. Tar’s good friend Andy Stokes also had a great story.
“I was at a baseball game with Jim and some friends and afterwards headed for home in my truck. To my absolute shock, Jim had hidden in the back bed of my truck without my knowledge and right as I passed his house knocked on the back window, laughing manically,” said Stokes. “Jim knew that I would drive right by his home and he wanted to scare the hell out of me. He did!”
Tar’s funeral service was held March 15, the Ides of March. Interestingly, one of Julius Caesar’s most famous quotes came to mind that day. “It is better to create than to learn, as creating is the essence of life.”
That’s what Jim Tar did. He created not just marvelous works of art but also countless memories with friends and family. Thankfully, his spirit will continue to live as long as people enjoy his art, sunsets at the ballpark, and the crazy times they enjoyed with one of the most unique souls I have ever had the pleasure to know.