Fort Worth artist credits JPS for saving his life, giving him inspiration

April 10th, 2018

May 5, 2014 might have been the last day of Fort Worth resident Jimmy Jenkins’ life if not for the work of surgeons at JPS.

Out for a ride on his bike, Jenkins suddenly found himself sprawled on the ground with blood pouring from his face. How he got there, he wasn’t quite sure. All he knew was he was struggling to remain conscious and he was in a lot of pain.

Jimmy Jenkins works on a mural at the Fort Worth Zoo

Jimmy Jenkins works on a mural at the Fort Worth Zoo

“I thought I hit a pothole or something,” Jenkins, 50, said. “But there was no hole. They told me later that maybe I was hit in the head with something as I rode. But I wasn’t worried about how I got where I was at that point. I was just worried that I wasn’t going to make it to the hospital because of how much I was bleeding.”

As he tried to find his phone and call for help, Jenkins said he initially thought it started raining because his head was wet. The liquid, it turned out, was blood. When he tried to open his mouth, he knew something was terribly wrong there, too.

“If you’ve ever eaten raw carrots, there’s that crunch you feel as you chew them,” Jenkins said. “As I tried to move my mouth, it crunched like that because of all the broken bones in my face.”

To repair the damage, surgeons had to put five metal plates in Jenkins’ face and fix his nose. Today, you wouldn’t know he was ever in an accident. Jenkins said he usually wears a baseball cap to cover scars on the top of his head. But his face appears to be completely unscathed.

Jenkins, who co-owned a screen printing company at the time of his injury, couldn’t work for months as he recovered. He said that time off, coupled with the reflection he did on where his life was going after a near-death experience, inspired him to pursue his hobby of painting as a career – and as a way to help others.

“I learned as I recovered that art could help me separate the emotion from my injuries,” Jenkins said. “There is a delete button in life. If something happens to you, it doesn’t have to define you. You can erase that chapter and start over.

“I don’t feel sorry about what happened because it got me to where I am today,” Jenkins said. “Now I can help myself, and I can give back to others.”

Jenkins co-founded a not-for-profit studio called Everybody’s Place where he plans to help people work through grief and pain with art therapy. In the meantime, he’s gained popularity as an emerging artist in the Fort Worth area. His works can be seen on the side of local eateries and in parks, and his latest project involves doing the design and art work of the new African Savanna exhibit at the Fort Worth Zoo.

At the zoo, Jenkins is working with a team of artists including Katie Murray, Maribel Inzunza and Mariell Guzman to transform non-descript buildings to look like an African village. It’s an ambitious project that includes murals, hand-painted faux mosaic tiles and artificially aged buildings. He hopes the big job will lead to others in the area.

His art career started only 16 months ago. But, from humble beginnings, it took off fast.

“I was at a restaurant and the owner was talking about doing a mural and I told him I could do it,” Jenkins said of the work, a painting of three monkeys on the wall of Lettuce Cook on White Settlement Road. “He gave me a chance and liked what I did. Then I got another job and another.”

The zoo project is to be unveiled at a grand opening of the African Savanna Exhibit April 21.

“I’m so excited for people to see it,” Jenkins said. “And I’m so glad to be able to do this. JPS gave me a second chance at life and I’m going to make the most of it.”


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