During my tenure with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, I’ve learned that there are only two certainties in life with The Greatest Show On Earth — expect the unexpected, and when we visit the city of Baltimore, Maryland, brace yourself for the one and only Jerry Williams.
It is at Make Studio, two days a week, where Williams toils away at portraits, figurines and a slew of various art projects that he creates with the sole purpose of giving them away to my fellow performers and I. It’s a very generous gesture, considering this is his livelihood. During a visit to Make Studio, I was astounded not only by the quality, but the prolific output of Williams and his colleagues. He hosted me, taking me to each department, introducing me to both the staff and his fellow artists, and displaying his work, particularly his circus-themed collection. To say he takes pride in his collection is beneath him. Jerry finds joy in his work and more so in sharing it. It’s the first thing you notice about him. Joy for his craft, the life he’s made for himself, the world he inhabits and the people for whom he shares it with. Indeed, he is “unbridled joy.”
Make Studio will often put on exhibitions in the community in places such as the World Trade Center Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland, or local art festivals, such as Artscape. They also feature the work of their artisans in an online gallery atwww.make-studio.org, “People get it; it resonates with the community. They see past the artists’ respective disabilities. They see the artists’ craft; they see the artists themselves,” says Goucher.
The arts cast a peculiar spell. Relationships are forged and avenues are explored that likely would have never been considered. For some time, Jerry was simply a character, a fun-loving fan of The Greatest Show On Earth whose presence and kindness was much appreciated. For a long time, I never saw beyond that. Not until Jerry kindly welcomed me into his world was I able to see, beyond the fan, beyond his disability. I saw a man and his passion, and of all the wonderful gifts of art he’s given me over the years, that is truly his greatest masterpiece.