For Bob Jenkins, art is not work, it’s his meditation

Since 1993, Bob Jenkins has helped shape children and student’s growth in the sculpting arts at the Arts Council of Princeton.

At the age of 88, the Princeton resident continues in that same effort today.

“Art is a form of expression to me. I like to express myself when it comes to mediums like paper mache. I get true satisfaction from art,” he said. “It is meditation to me more so than work. Sometimes people do this for the money, in my case I just like to create.”

He said he always wanted to be a painter, but being color blind restricted him from doing the medium professionally.

“I can paint, but I cannot see color the way others would see color. My deficiencies in color are with the greens and reds. So I decided to become a sculptor instead,” Jenkins said. “I studied that medium at the Art Student League for about five years and the National Academy of the Fine Arts for two years in New York City.”

He said with sculpting he had learned to work with stone and clay, as well as, with other materials.

“Most recently I have been working with paper mache, because I do not have the facilities for clay and stone. Right now I would say paper mache is my principal medium in sculpture today,” Jenkins said.

When Jenkins was in his youth he had not yet discovered his love for sculpting and the arts.

“When I was in my elementary school day I used to draw and paint a lot. By the time I entered high school I had joined the after school arts clubs for painting and drawing,” he said. “My father then asked me one day what I was preparing to do in the future for a career, I said be an artist. He said you cannot make money in art why not steer toward a trade.”

During high school, he transferred from Manasquan High School to attend high school in Bordentown, where he learned the trades of carpentry and printing.

After Bordentown, life took another turn. Jenkins found himself drafted into the Korea War.

“Anything that had to do with art was put on the back burner, because I had to concentrate on the work I had to do as a part of the armed forces. I spent four years in the Air Force,” he said.

By 1955 in the years after his service, Jenkins would move to New York, where he believed there would be more job opportunities available with carpentry and printing.

While in New York he found his way back to the arts.

“By 1970, I applied for a job for a design position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the time they did not have a position open for me. I took a job at the Met as a guard instead and during this time I am all around this art, which brought back to my old art influences. I applied then to take drawing classes at the National Academy of Fine Arts, a school for the fine arts. I would work at the Met at night and go to arts school in the morning.”

Jenkins handed in his retirement papers after 20 years as a special officer in 1991. He then moved to Princeton with his wife, and two years later, he began helping instruct students and children in the art exchange program at the Arts Council.

The ArtsExchange program is a program that provides weekly, year-round arts instruction to more than 75 children, ages 5-18, whose families are currently living in difficult situations, according to Arts Council officials.

“I started out as a volunteer. Then they found out I had this experience with painting and sculpting they used me as a substitute when it came to the arts and crafts,” Jenkins said. “It gave me an opportunity to teach children 3-D arts crafts that worked with clay and paper mache.”

He said they would have students do two-week projects for the classes.

“The best part of being with this program is being a teacher and teacher helper. When the students finish their projects they are always excited,” he said.

Jim Levine, Interim Executive Director of the Arts Council of Princeton, said Jenkins is a true gentleman.

“Bob is just a positive presence every time he is in the building. He is just a positive experience each time that you meet him,” he said. “Staff loves him. It is clear too that the youth in the classes he teaches respect and enjoy him. We appreciate everything he does for the ArtsExchange program and the students who are involved in it.”

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