Before Jay B. Starker died in July, the shop owner, musician and figure in the Sarasota arts scene told his cousin and only living Sarasota relative, Jessika Arman, something she’ll never forget.
“He said, ‘It’s not that I mind dying, it’s that I have so much that I’d still like to do,’’ Arman recalls. “He was such a Renaissance man. He loved young people, and he wanted to pass the arts on to them.”
It was this comment that led her to establish the Jay B. Starker Youth Arts Scholarship to honor his memory and keep his artistic spirit alive.
Starker was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, N.Y. In the 1950s, he became part of the beatnik movement in Greenwich Village. In 1959, he moved from New York City to Sarasota, and he brought with him what Arman refers to as his “bohemian lifestyle.”
In 1960, he opened a jewelry and leather shop in town. He became well-known in the arts scene for his collaborative jam sessions, known as the Gathering of the Exiles.
“The scholarship is a really good way to keep his name alive in the community,” says Arman. “He was one of the people who helped bring the arts to Sarasota, and I don’t want anyone to forget him.”
The scholarship, still in its infancy, will be used to help young, underprivileged children pursue their artistic dreams.
Arman says the first candidate for the scholarship is a 13-year-old boy who wants to learn to play the drums. She hopes to sign him up for lessons with one of the musicians from the Gathering of Exiles.
She wants to be able to award the scholarship to five children in the scholarship’s first year, then she’d like to see it expand.
“It’s starting off with simpler projects, but it can take shape in lots of forms,” says Arman. “But, its stronghold will definitely be music. If there’s enough interest, I’d like to look at local colleges to help it grow.”
Arman feels it’s more important than ever to establish the scholarship.
“As life becomes busier and kids become more occupied with computers and technology, I want to be able to bring people joy through art,” she says. “I hope to build something Jay would be proud of.”