Bobbi Jean Bell and her husband Jim Bell, whose OutWest clothing boutique and popular TV concert series have celebrated all things Western and helped revitalize Old Town Newhall for the past decade, will soon ride east into the sunrise.
The couple is moving to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.
“It’s something we’ve thought about off and on for a long time, particularly I have because I always thought the Santa Fe area was probably the last vestige of the real West,” Jim Bell said. “There’s a lot of culture in that area.”
While the Bells will carry on curating and selling Western-inspired clothing and accouterments online at scvoutwest.com, once relocated, they plan to continue promoting live Western music performances, art shows, book signings and cultural events.
“We hope to open a store and re-establish a home for OutWest in our new community,” Bobbi Jean said, which is the Rio Rancho area between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on the western slopes of the Sandia Mountains, and just east of the Rio Grande.
Years ago, Jim Bell recalled, he and Bobbi Jean took a trip to Billings, Montana for a symposium on General Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn, and on the way home to California, the couple road-tripped through Santa Fe for the first time and were…enchanted.
In more recent years, the longtime Western Music Association members have traveled to Albuquerque to attend annual WMA conventions (the next one’s November 8-14).
On those drives, roughly tracing the gorge carved by the Rio Grande from the Santa Fe and Taos areas south to Albuquerque and the Texas-Mexican border, the couple gained an even deeper appreciation of New Mexico’s stunning natural landscape and its Native American and cowboy culture.
Rio Grand River Gorge looking north toward Santa Fe, New Mexico. | Photo: Betsy Weber/WMC CC 2.0
“That got me to thinking again about that area, and how we could tie in both our businesses there – the Western-inspired retail merchandise, and the music,” Jim Bell said.
“That’s what we do, our creed – we promote artists, musicians, craftspeople,” he said. “I think we can carry on doing that in New Mexico and have a lot of fun.”
The Bells broke news of their departure from Santa Clarita to family, friends and customers last month; it’s bittersweet for the couple as well as the posse of Western artists, musicians, authors, craftspeople and aficionados that’s grown around OutWest.
Packing up their Conestoga and rolling 800 miles east along Interstate 40 (which, as old-timers know, is what replaced Route 66) toward the Rio Grande marks the latest adventure in the saga of Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell.
The couple from White Plains, New York already had extensive retail experience when they moved to California in 1991 and became deeply enamored with Western culture.
Bobbi Jean volunteered at the Autry Museum (now known as the Autry National Center of the American West) near Griffith Park and wound up running the store there for several years. That experience inspired the couple to launch OutWest in 2007. They decided the end of 2017 was the time to write the next chapter. Their Canyon Country home is now on the market. As soon as it sells and closes escrow, they will head east.
“Selfishly, you want to see people who have made such an imprint on the city to stick around, but you realize people have their lives to live and we wish them great success,” Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said. “Bobbi Jean and Jim can leave knowing they’ve made a significant impact on a great community.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by everyone who knows the Bells and ever ventured OutWest.
‘OutWest Concert Series’ Needs New Wrangler
With the intimacy of a house concert in your living room, the “SCVTV Presents The OutWest Concert Series” has featured scores of popular and award-winning Western artists (plus the occasional bluegrass, folk or Americana performer) since 2009.
SCVTV, non-profit community television for the Santa Clarita Valley, has televised about 85 OutWest concerts in the SCV and Los Angeles and Orange Counties since 2010. The shows are archived online for on-demand viewing in perpetuity, which has helped extend the series’ (and Santa Clarita’s) reach far beyond Old Town Newhall.
But when the Bells saddle up to leave Santa Clarita, they will also hand over the reins to funding and producing the “OutWest Concert Series” to the Western Music Association’s California Chapter. For the next few months, anyway.
As of right now, there are three OutWest concerts booked at The MAIN in Old Town Newhall. But beyond those shows, the series’ future is uncertain.
The next edition, “An Evening with Almeda Bradshaw,” is Friday night, October 27, at The MAIN on Main Street on Old Town Newhall.
“After that, we know that in January, Dave Stamey’s going to be in town, and in February, we’ll have Michael Fleming and New West,” said John Bergstrom, WMA past president, past president of the national board, advisor to the current board of WMA’s California Chapter, and serial “OutWest” performer.
“There’s been some discussion about the (Santa Clarita) Cowboy Festival (in late April) as a third date in 2018,” he said. “But as to who’s going to run the show after that, it’s up in the air. It’s hard to find somebody who can devote the time” to bankroll, book, produce and promote the series.
Up until now, expenses for the “SCVTV Presents The OutWest Concert Series” have been covered by several sources – Bell family members, the OutWest retail business, TV show sponsorships, and Jim and Bobbi Jean, primarily.
John Bergstrom. | Photo: Jack Hummel
SCVTV, The Magazine of Santa Clarita, FM Q101.5 QCountry, and the California Chapter of the WMA also have contributed in cash and/or in kind to keep the series in the saddle.
“The WMA has helped sponsor the show in the past, but what the organization was able to contribute as a sponsor isn’t nearly as much as it costs to put on the show,” Bergstrom said.
“I would like to see the concert series continue because it’s a great opportunity for some wonderful music to come into the community that otherwise wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Look at the list of artists and musicians that have come through here. For that to continue would be a wonderful thing.
“In a perfect world, we would find somebody like Coca-Cola – OK, even Dr. Pepper – who could give an infusion of capital,” Bergstrom said. “The city (of Santa Clarita) is really good – it doesn’t charge a lot of money for (The MAIN), but still it’s a significant sum for the organization. And we have to get a full or nearly a full house to cover the expenses and pay the artists what they’re worth. And you know you can never pay artists what they’re worth. Those are the things we need.”
Arts Commission’s Official Recognition
Santa Clarita Arts Commissioners were effusive in their official recognition of Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell at City Hall on October 12, which lasted almost 30 minutes.
Bobbi Jean Bell and Jim Bell receive recognition from the Santa Clarita Arts Commission at Santa Clarita City Hall on October 12, 2017. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples
At the opening of the Commission’s regular meeting, Chairman Michael Millar read the following from the dais:
“Each month, the Arts Commission recognizes individuals or groups who have made a significant contribution to the artistic and cultural life of the Santa Clarita Valley.
“This month we are proud to recognize Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell for their huge contribution to the artistic and cultural life of Santa Clarita. Jim and Bobbi Jean, please step to the podium, while I share a few words about your accomplishments.
“Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell are passionate about the American West and the creative spirit of those who interpret its story. As husband and wife, they have more than 70 years of retail experience. They met while working in retail management at JCPenney in White Plains, New York.
Santa Clarita Arts Commission recognition of Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell, October 12, 2017.
“They moved to California in 1991 and after their first visit to the Autry Museum Bobbi joined their volunteer program and eventually she was invited to join the staff working directly with visitors and curatorial staff.”
“The years at the Autry Museum exposed them to the engaging history of the West and they found that this was their life’s calling. Hence, OutWest was born, launched in late 2007 as an online Western boutique. Finally, on the National Day of the Cowboy 2009 they opened their ‘brick and mortar’ store on Main Street in Old Town Newhall.”
“In 2009, OutWest was invited as a Community Partner organizing the Buckaroo Book Shop during the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. Each year, they hosted this popular venue inviting 20 authors to participate with live interviews, panel discussions and book signings.”
“August 2009, was the first live in-store music concert featuring three award-winning Western performers – Joni Harms, Eli Barsi, and Canadian Cowgirl Poet Doris Daley. In June 2010, SCVTV came alongside to film the multi-award winning Juni Fisher’s performance – and they’ve been filming ever since.”
“For several years, Bobbi co-hosted a popular radio show on KHTS, ‘Around the Barn,’ with Nancy Pitchford Zhe, Julie Pomilia, and Mike Dowler. Today she continues to provide radio platforms for musicians and authors co-hosting two online programs ‘Campfire Café’ with Gary Holt out of Nashville and ‘The Writer’s Block Radio Show’ with host author Jim Christina on LA Talk Radio.
“Today, OutWest is an online retail venue continuing to serve both the local and international communities with curated unique merchandise collections as well as links to concerts and radio shows. Their tagline ‘We deliver the West door-to-door, coast-to-coast, and over the air’ is really true.
Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell, Santa Clarita Arts Commission recognition, October 12, 2017. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples
“Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell have embraced the western culture of Santa Clarita and have brought immense cultural experiences to the local community. We are very thankful for their passion and artistic leadership within the city of Santa Clarita.”
Here are highlights from the many testimonials recognizing OutWest and the Bells, as read by Millar during the Arts Commission meeting:
Andrea Kidd, award-winning cowgirl poet and equestrian: “I want to convey my profound gratitude and respect and ‘Thank You’ to Jim and Bobbi for all your help, assistance and support, for the opportunities that you provided me and most of all for your wonderful and most treasured friendship.”
Jerry Hall and Trick Shot, executive vice president, Western Music Association: “Jim and Bobbi treated us like family while the events were very well organized and professionally produced.”
Juni Fisher, multi-award-winning songwriter, singer, performer and equestrian: “Every time I was honored to play one of their shows, I was rewarded with their gracious hospitality and true enthusiasm for the community. I can think of no one else in the area that has done so much to bring the level of talent and diversity that Western Music has to offer.”
Marvin O’Dell, president, Western Music Association: “The city of Santa Clarita has been fortunate to have these two upstanding members in its community. Their work ensures that Santa Clarita will continue to reach a national and even international community with its ongoing Western events.”
Jim Christina, Western author: “It has always been apparent to me the amount of time and effort Bobbi and Jim put into their community and the sacrifices they made while doing it.”
J.R. Sanders, author: “Their live concerts, book signings, radio programs and other events have become fixtures of the SoCal arts scene, as they’ve fed the hunger for Western culture in older generations who grew up with it – and introduced it to younger generations who didn’t – through music, literature, art, fashion, and much more.”
Bob and Marie Mann, Big Hat Entertainment: “We’ve enjoyed witnessing your accomplishments and wish you continued success and prosperity.”
Jim Jones | Photo: Faith
Doris Daley, award-winning Canadian cowgirl poet: “If cowboy poetry performances were old western TV shows, then my memories of OutWest, Santa Clarita, Jim and Bobbi Jean are ‘Bonanza,’ ‘Rawhide’ and ‘Gunsmoke’ all rolled into one, with a little bit of ‘F Troop’ thrown in for good measure.”
Jim Jones, award-winning songwriter, performer, author: “Not only are Jim and Bobbi Jean enthusiastic purveyors of Western culture and lifestyle, they are high-quality human beings. I’m proud to call them my friends.”
D.B. Jackson, novelist, screenwriter: “Bobbi Jean and Jim tirelessly continue to help bring artists and fans together in settings that are unique and personal.”
Joyce Woodson, award-winning songwriter, performer: “Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell have been fearless in giving their all by creating a place for talented musicians, writers, and poets to perform at their OutWest venues in Santa Clarita.”
John Zipperer, songwriter, performer: “My experience with OutWest was superlative in every way. The nicest most professional people I’ve had the pleasure to work with.”
Bobbi Jean and Jim Thank the Community
Millar invited the Bells to the podium to speak, and Bobbi Jean began her remarks with a hat tip to the Commission.
Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell speak to the Santa Clarita Arts Commission on October 12, 2017. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples
Here’s her complete speech:
“Jim and I thank you for this special recognition tonight for our business and OutWest’s cultural programming, offered to the Santa Clarita community since 2009. And, we celebrate with you all, our shared history as both (OutWest and the Arts Commission) started in 2009 and have supported each other’s efforts over these past eight years.
“Thanks to each of you – Dr. Michael Millar, chair; John Dow, vice chair; and Commissioners Patti Rasmussen, Vanessa Wilk and Susan Shapiro.
“And, special thanks to Arts Coordinator, Katherine Cooksey, who helped arrange the details of this evening.
“Jim and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank many of the folks who have come alongside supporting our efforts. We have been blessed with so many, we cannot name them all tonight, but we want to be sure to thank these folks:
“Laurene Weste, for her unwavering belief in Old Town Newhall and for her invitation to me to join the board of the Friends of Hart Park. We met at OutWest’s ribbon cutting day and she’s been a staunch supporter of our business ever since. And for being one of our best customers.
“How we enjoyed working closely with the city’s Arts and Events staff, as a community partner, during the annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival as well as all ‘Thursdays in Newhall.’ Our special thanks to Andree Walper, Phil Lantis, Mike Fleming, David Knutson, Jenni Shadle and Jeff Barber.
“To the good neighbors across (Main Street) who said back in 2013, ‘Bring the “SCVTV Presents The OutWest Concert Series” over here to the REP’: Mikee Schwinn and O. Michael Owston. They provided a new home for our performers and loyal audience and made us feel welcome.
“What a great venue. Thanks to the city of Santa Clarita for securing this venue, now known as The MAIN, and continuing its reputation of providing the best in art shows and all manner of live programming.
“And here’s to the folks that partnered up and rode the trail with us, who volunteered their energy, enthusiasm, vision and creative spirits and whose efforts made all we’ve done possible:
“David Veal: We met David in fall of 2009 during the Chalk Art Festival and we’ve been great friends ever since. David’s creative talent and enthusiasm have played a role in all our events. He’s our ‘Head Writer Wrangler’ leading the Buckaroo Book Shop during the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival and he’s our sound equipment wrangler for all concerts. He has hung our art shows, created fliers, brought us lunch, and made our dreams come true. A treasure to the arts community – what he does for us he does for many other art groups. We can never thank him enough.
Jim Bell at the Buckaroo Book Store. | Photo: Cindy Stout Quigley
“John and Diane Bergstrom: John performed outside OutWest’s doors during every event we hosted – from our opening to the early Art Walks. He and his wife Diane have volunteered at the Buckaroo Book Shop and for setup of all concerts. They’ve followed us to out of town venues and willingly contributed countless hours to make our programs a success.
“Gency Brown: During the days when the Concert Series was in our store, Gency rolled up her sleeves to help me clear the space and set up chairs and sound equipment. She did the same for the Buckaroo Book Shop and in countless other ways. She penned many of our early newsletters and was always on hand for any of our events.
“Jack and Voleta Hummel: They have tirelessly promoted the concert series and volunteered hours for the Buckaroo Book Shop. We are grateful for Jack’s documenting our events on film and for Voleta’s assistance in countless ways.
“Cindy Stout Quigley: Art photographer Cindy Quigley travels from Northern California to support our programs, volunteering every year at the Buckaroo Book Shop and attending as many concerts as possible. She’s another member of the OutWest Posse.
“Joe Herrington: Joe is a man of many talents. He laid flooring and updated electrical elements, emceed concerts and other events, been a guest on the radio, and built amazing sets for his three ‘SCVTV Presents The OutWest Concert Series’ performances. It’s his orange curtain that provides our concert backdrop and his friendship that supports all our efforts.
“Janet Squires: Local author Janet Squires has appeared with us even before we had a storefront. There were a few times we had a booth presence at community events and she was always with us with her book, ‘The Gingerbread Cowboy.’ No matter where we went we could count on Janet being there.
“Nadiya Littlewarrior: What a treasure Nadiya is. Her gourd artwork is amazing and we’ve watched her reputation blossom over the years. She now shows her work at prestigious Museums and Native American art shows. Her unflappable spirit and sparkling sense of humor keep us smiling. With husband John, they both contributed their talents to the improvement of our store space. And – they are our best customers.
“Laila Asgar: Jim met glass artist Laila Asgari at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. I was the director of the Autry Museum’s Museum Store at the time, he suggested she call me and took her card. Within a few days we met at the Autry. I was impressed with her work and so began our relationship. When we went out on our own Laila was the first artist we contacted and invited her to be part of our artist family. Laila, like John and Janet, came out for every event supporting the early art events on Main Street as well as in our store. Today, her work continues to be featured at the Autry Center and OutWest online.
“Western Music Association California Chapter: The WMACC, as an organization of which we are members, has supported all our endeavors. Many of the people we have acknowledged here are members of the wonderful organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the rich western heritage and cowboy way of life. Many of our performers, loyal audience and program attendees are members of this national organization. We are grateful for their partnership.
“My radio show hosts: They have given me a platform to share with musicians, arts and authors – Nancy Pitchford Zhee on KHTS’s ‘Around the Barn’; Gary Holt and ‘Campfire Café’ on Equestrian Legacy; and Jim Christina on ‘The Writer’s Block’ on LA Talk Radio.
“Huge thank yous go to Alex Hafizi of The Magazine of Santa Clarita, who has promoted the Concert Series every month since April of 2014, and to Bill Walton of FM 101.5 Q Country for his fabulous public announcements.
“And my sister and brother-in-law Wendy Birkemeier and Tom Degutis, probably our biggest cheerleaders and fans and who donate funds to underwrite the ‘OutWest Concert Series.’ They’re residents of Illinois, and look forward to watching every concert as soon as it appears online at SCVTV.com.
OutWest’s Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell presented multiple WMA award-winner Belinda Gail in the “SCVTV Presents The OutWest Concert Series.”
“Our final word of thanks is to two remarkable and special people whose deep love for our community, its history, and its legacy is apparent in everything they do: Leon Worden of SCVTV and Susan Shapiro, Arts Commissioner.
“Leon saw what we were attempting to do and came alongside us, providing the platform for live Western music to be captured and presented to both a local, national and international audience.
“Susan was part of the original film crew, along with Megan (Mann-Perez) and Austin (Dave), that filmed in our store. But it’s her presence and enthusiasm for ALL the art programs we were creating that fired us up and kept us dreaming big dreams.
“To Leon Worden and Susan Shapiro, we give a most hearty OutWest THANK YOU. You touched our lives and, through the presence of SCVTV online, you present the music of the West to a worldwide audience.
“Thank you all for allowing us to share our story tonight. We have been honored to be part of the legacy of Old Town Newhall and we know that there are many exciting times in its future.”
Jim Bell had a few additional comments:
“We know we haven’t been able to name everyone that’s played a role over the years. I look around the audience here tonight and I see artist and ARTree founder Bob Hernandez, who created our logo and found our Main Street store location. I see Jake Crossland, who along with wife Jett, supported us at a critical time and are so appreciated.
“We see Dan Payne, another great friend, who first met us during a Native American jewelry trunk show at Rattlesnake Slim’s and continues to be part of our OutWest family. And Don Dellepaine, who with wife Cheryl attend every concert and both have a closet full of Western shirts. And singer/songwriter and performer Katy Moffat, who has been part of the Concert Series twice and whose friendship is so dear to us.
“You are honoring us tonight – but truly, we’d like to take this opportunity to honor and thank you all for supporting the arts in Santa Clarita and allowing us the opportunity to thank all who have supported and collaborated with us,” Bell said.
By turn, each Commissioner expressed deep gratitude for the couple’s extensive contributions to the local arts community and revitalization of the arts district in Old Town Newhall, and vast appreciation for Bobbi Jean and Jim personally.
Millar capped the tributes calling for a photo of Commissioners and the couple holding their commemorative plaque.
The Santa Clarita Arts Commission honors Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell at its meeting on October 12, 2017. From left: Commissioners Vanessa Wilk and Patti Rasmussen; Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell; Arts Commission Chair Michael Millar and Vice Chair John Dow; and Commissioner Susan Shapiro. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples
City Council Rings the Bells
Chairman Millar introduced Mayor Pro-Tem Laurene Weste to the podium, and she did some serious speechifyin’ before presenting the Bells a certificate of recognition on behalf of the Santa Clarita City Council, also signed by Mayor Smyth and Councilmembers Bob Kellar, Marsha McLean and Bill Miranda.
Weste’s pre-presentation homage follows:
“(Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell) are people who understand the value of the citizenry that step forward, take risk, and help you build, piece by piece, your community, people that are gutsy enough to be visionary, entrepreneurial, and also giving, and a friend to all who assist in piecing together the quilt and the fabric of a great community. (Seated) behind me are two of those people. It’s very rare. I am very proud to say they are my friends.
Santa Clarita Mayor Pro-Tem Laurene Weste speaks on behalf of the City Council in recognizing Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell at the Arts Commission meeting, October 12, 2017. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples
“I have watched them do amazing things together. I have watched them support and help turn an area that was the core and the structure 125 years ago in this community, and was eroded away, and now has been reborn.
“Today we stood on a corner that once hustled and bustled with ladies in hoop skirts, and wagons, and horses. Today it became the focus and center of art that you have dreamed about.
“This doesn’t happen because there is just money or just, ‘Oh, we want to do this.’ This happened because some people that really felt the impetus to roll up their sleeves, dig in, do the job, create, and bring back to life some real America. Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell helped do that. I applaud them for their commitment and their love.
“Bobbi spent a lot of time with Friends of Hart Park and as a president of Friends of Hart Park, I can tell you this lady worked very hard on the legacy of Bill Hart. During her time, we started with a park that did not match the vision in Newhall. We worked through, and that has all changed.
“She took a stop in a store in downtown Newhall. Wasn’t much. When she got done, it was fabulous. She created a concert series that nobody would have thought of, and she took it across the nation and around the world. She put Santa Clarita and Old Town Newhall on the map worldwide.
“She took something that people younger didn’t understand and made it popular. There are literally thousands of them every week in downtown Newhall. She is an amazing woman. I know her husband knows that. Don’t you, Jim? (laughter) I love them both. I’m very proud of all of you.
“The City Council wants to give them this certificate (of recognition), and I want to personally thank them for their constant commitment to the West – the culture of the West, the patriotism of the West, the art of the West, to the cowboys, the Cowboy Festival, and the cowgirls, and my beautiful (beaded leather) jacket.
“It’s all about art, and cowboy, and heart, and the (‘OutWest) Concert Series.’ It really speaks to the fact that this city loves Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell. We congratulate them and wish them all the wonder, wealth, happiness and love in the world. I just wish it was going to be here in Santa Clarita. Thank you, Commission, for letting me speak.
“Now, I’d like them both to come up and have a picture with this five-signature scroll,” Weste said, gathering the commissioners and the Bells for another photo capturing the spirit of the occasion.
Santa Clarita Mayor Pro-Tem Laurene Weste presents an official recognition from the City Council to Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell at the city’s Arts Commission meeting on October 12, 2017. From left: Commissioners Vanessa Wilk and Patti Rasmussen; Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell; Weste; Arts Commission Chair Michael Millar and Vice Chair John Dow; and Commissioner Susan Shapiro. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples
Last Round of Tributes
Along with the passel of tributes contributed in writing by fans, friends and colleagues, and the heartfelt accolades from the Arts Commission and City Council, there were a few more delivered from the podium in person.
John Bergstrom read a letter from Jack Hummel, Chapter president. Hummel was unable to attend, but was personally represented at the meeting by his wife, Belita Hummel.
“On behalf of the Western Music Association, California chapter, we want to thank Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell for their continued support of Western music in Santa Clarita as well as in California,” Hummel wrote.
“The promotion and presentation of the ‘SCVTV Presents The OutWest Concert Series’ has continued to bring outstanding Western music and poetry to our community since 2009,” Hummel wrote. “We wish to convey to them our hope for continued success, as they move their operation to New Mexico. They will be missed. Their stay here made Santa Clarita a better place, and their move to Albuquerque will make Albuquerque a better place.”
Bergstrom noted that J.R. Sanders, author of one of the testimonials Millar read, lives in San Bernardino County. Bob and Marie Mann live in Altadena.
“That’s another example of Bobbi Jean and Jim’s influence extending outside the Santa Clarita Valley,” Bergstrom said.
“In the years I have known Bobbi and Jim, they have always done as much as they could to promote and support Western artists,” he said, reading a tribute of his own.
“Performers have been given multiple opportunities to show their wares up and down the developing downtown Newhall. Musicians, photographers, painters, all have been given a generous access to the facilities to open the community to their work,” he said. “The ‘OutWest Concert Series’ taped by SCVTV has given performers time on community TV that they might never get elsewhere. A big thank-you to Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell for all their work.”
Nadia Littlewarrior followed Bergstrom:
“My grandma taught me that I could hold my tears back but I couldn’t stop my nose from running, so I might be sniffing a little bit. Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell gave me a voice that I had longed for my whole, entire life. I was a closet artist.
“They gave me my first one-woman show, and encouraged me to take my artwork out on the road. I just got back last night from Texas, and I won a $50 prize.
“A woman who coordinates that show told me I was an artist of theirs for life, and I wouldn’t have been able to receive those honors if it hadn’t been for Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell.
Local artist Nadiya Littlewarrior displays one of her gourd pieces.
“My husband, John Davis, is also wanting to say he sends his love, and look forward to seeing them in Albuquerque. I don’t think I ever met a nicer couple in my entire life. What they put into the arts and in the human beings in this city, is really difficult for me to put into words.
“I will tell you, though, that when I was at a difficult place in my life, and I needed very much to believe in myself, they gave me the gift of self-esteem. My artwork is my joy, and they returned that to me in ways that I just don’t have words for.
“I was also privileged to sit with them for a bit on the Friends of Hart Park board, and work with them, and learn about the amazing feats of William S. Hart Park. I appreciated every moment of that. They gave me a great deal of purpose, every time I was in their presence. I loved their concerts.
“Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell are in a class of their own. They’ll be sorely missed. I get to drive through Albuquerque when I go to a show in Oklahoma, and when I go to Texas, I can drive through Albuquerque if I want to.
“Having grown up in Texas, finding OutWest was a miracle. I don’t even remember if it was friends of Friends of Hart Park, or if I wandered into the store, or how I came to meet Jim and Bobbi Jean, but I’m blessed to know them, and I will love and visit them always. I wish we could’ve kept them here. I am very grateful for the city and the Arts Commission for honoring them tonight. You’ve done the correct thing. Thank you.”
“That concludes our recognition of Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell,” Millar said from the dais, almost a half hour after the tribute began. “As I said, it’s just not enough. You two are fabulous. Thank you so much. Best wishes on your next part of your journey.”
New Mexico sunrise. | Photo: John Fowler, Placitas/WMC 2.0
Katy Moffatt’s Last Word
As the Commissioners carried on their meeting, the Bells and a small group of friends and fans – Weste, Bergstrom, Littlefeather and Katy Moffatt among them – adjourned to the steps outside City Council Chambers and savored the moment.
“Bobbi Jean and Jim have brought so much edifying and entertaining music and presented it to this town, and they’ve presented me a few times and I’m personally grateful for that,” she said.
“But the thoughtfulness with which they’ve approached everything they’ve done in this city is something we’ll all miss,” Moffatt said. “They do everything right. They try to comprehend what it would take to get the right audience out and to pull in new people and a new audience. This is a very tough part of the job of promoting music and they’re awfully good at it. We’ll miss them.”
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