Life in the Epicenter
Jacy Jenkins is one of those women who makes you wonder what you have been doing with your life. She’s high energy, passionate, and driven. Her free-spirit makes it easy to see why freelance work is exactly what Jacy was made for and it only takes about 60 seconds worth of conversation to realize that Columbus benefits greatly from Jacy’s free-spirited, freelance lifestyle. Why? Because Jacy Jenkins loves Columbus, Georgia. And she wakes up every morning thinking “What can I do to make Columbus better?” From music festivals to film festivals, to Meeting of the Minds to Electric City Life, Jenkins in investing her heart and soul into our community. Born in Alaska, and landing in Georgia via Virginia by way of family and the military, Jacy settled down in Columbus a few years ago. “I don’t think people understand just how wide open I was at the time,” Jenkins said. After losing her brother in 2009, Jacy took on the responsibility of running his tax business for awhile in Savannah. A family discussion led to a sale of the business and Jacy found herself searching for a clean slate and a fresh start. And she found that in Uptown. “It may sound hokey, but I feel like God called me here. He placed me in the epicenter of the revitalization of Uptown and it has been such a privilege to work with the great minds that created this awesome space.”
Jacy finds herself asking the question “What does Columbus need?” on a regular basis. And as she finds the answers, she strives to fill those gaps. This process brought us Electric City Life, an online platform where the community can engage with one another in a positive and collaborative way. “I feel like Electric City Life has been confusing for some at times, and a little all over the place. But we have been progressive in asking questions, finding the answers, and asking our community to think a little deeper about the issues at hand. We strive to stay away from politics because it can be so polarizing, but we do bring to light issues that can be political in nature and ask our community to really brainstorm for solutions.” Through volunteer contributors, Jacy’s vision for cultivating culture through increased connectedness can be found scrolling through Electric City Life’s online pages. “We knew it was going to have to be volunteer based, but slowly, Columbus has seen the value and the originality of our work. No one else has provided anything like this and we have seen an interest in advertising on our platform”, says Jenkins.
In addition to Electric City Life, over the last 4 years, Jacy has worked with community leaders like Cecil Cheves, John Turner, and Buddy Nelms to create events such as Cutbait Music Festival, paving the way for RiverFest, planting seeds and showing Columbus what it can be. “We put the first stage in front of RiverCenter. Now, no one even thinks about it, it’s commonplace to see it there and enjoy live music.” But at the heart of all the events, of all Jacy’s successes, she says she can trace it all back to The Loft. Owned by her sister’s father-in-law, Buddy Nelms, Jacy is quick to refer to The Loft as the “heartbeat” of Uptown. “It’s the community bar. It’s where the locals go. And from the beginning, Buddy had a vision of what Uptown could be and here we are today.” But the Loft means more to Jacy than a place where everyone knows her name. Upon her arrival in Columbus, Buddy brought Jacy in and together they began to reconfigure The Loft’s marketing, started new programming like Blues Night, redesigned the upstairs bar, and began to realize Jacy’s dreams for Wednesday nights.
“Wednesday nights are typically a slow night for restaurants and bars unless you are margarita night. I wanted to create something that would bring a few folks in and encourage conversation,” says Jenkins. Jenkins got a little more than she bargained for when 60 people showed up for the inaugural meeting of “Monthly Meeting of the Minds”. They covered topics from help for those in need, to the Springer Opera House becoming home to Georgia’s Film Academy to ColumbusMakesIt to the Regional Prosperity Initiative. “That was a year ago this month,” Jacy exclaimed when her chatted with her via phone in early August. And in the last year, The Monthly Meeting of the Minds has drawn bigger crowds, discussed everything from education to race to healthy living to leadership to art. “When I started Electric City Life, I realized we had a need for a space to engage. But what I began to see was that we had an even greater need to connect in person and connect face to face.” What Jacy envisioned as ten or so people in an almost small group, bible study setting has become a packed room full of energy and lively discussion. “Meeting of the Minds is different for everyone, but I believe that even if it is a one-on-one discussion broken off to the side at the bar, that is why you were supposed to be there and we have fulfilled our mission. We want people interacting, engaging and coming together as one.”
Jacy’s newest pet project is the Way Down Film Festival, the name a nod to Alan Jackson’s song ‘Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee.’ “I can remember being in California and someone singing that song at karaoke and everyone going crazy and thinking ‘That’s my home. I am from way down yonder on the Chattahoochee.’ I realized no one really knew where Columbus was and I wanted to put us on the map.” So, in her spare time, Jacy came together with Cora King and Stacy Cunningham and honed in on Georgia’s newest six billion dollar industry. Keeping pace with the growing market, Jacy co-founded the Way Down Film Festival in an effort to highlight short films. “Unlike other festivals, no matter when you made your short film, you can enter it in our festival.” And, the weekend of October 21 and 22, the Springer Opera House will host Columbus’ first high-profile film festival. The two-day event will be filled with networking (because Jacy Jenkins doesn’t believe in gathering for the sake of gathering) and celebratory receptions. Industry judges will be on hand to award cash prizes to one grand prize winner and six sub category winners.
“Yeah, I’m busy. But I love what I’m doing. I’m passionate about our culture, about the people in our community, and about highlighting all our city has to offer,” says Jacy. Jacy Jenkins is one to watch as Columbus continues to move forward. Uptown may be the epicenter of the revitalization movement in Columbus, but from our vantage point, Jacy is a strong force behind that movement, setting the standard for the changing of the guard.