Cynthia Walker remembers how her daughter could see the beauty in "regular" objects that Walker never gave a second glance. Walker, 62, a Ventnor resident, recalls an image of a glass of cranberry juice that has three prints hanging in the Atlantic County Library System branch in Ventnor.
"It's amazing looking at (Jennifer's) photographs and seeing life through her eyes, and all the different things she saw that I didn't see," Walker said.
Cynthia Walker is president of the Jan-Ai Scholarship fund. Jan-Ai showcases the art of Jennifer Cakert, who died in 2006 at age 26. The library photo exhibit features some of the photographs Cakert took.
"She loved to take photographs," Walker said, "She was a writer and a poet." But Walker says Jennifer's art was never meant to be published.
Jan-Ai Executive Director Bernadette Bannister, a Montana resident, wrote that starting this scholarship fund was a way to honor her niece's life and memory.
The proceeds from the art purchased at Jan-Ai events, such as the Ventnor photo exhibit, as well as proceeds from fundraising efforts, benefit local students and their artistic endeavors.
William Gussie, 66, of Linwood, sits on the Jan-Ai Fund board of directors. The board chooses which students will receive funding.
"We focus primarily on the arts," Gussie said, "but we added a new component this year; we're looking at scholastics. We're moving into the area of academic scholarships, as well."
Gussie, who last worked as interim superintendent for Brigantine schools, said he knew Jennifer when she was a student, and his wife is related to her family.
Along with expanding into the area of academic scholarships, Jan-Ai is granting awards to students graduating middle school, he said.
"That's always really rewarding, because when they're recognized for their achievements in grade school, it's really rewarding for them as well," he said.
So far, Gussie said, students from Ventnor, Margate, Chelsea Heights in Atlantic City, Brigantine and Mainland Regional High School, as well as Richard Stockton College, have received scholarships.
"It's not just for music, or dance," Walker said, saying even a student who wanted to pursue set design, for example, could apply for the scholarship. "Anything and everything to do with the arts counts; it encompasses everything."
So far, Walker said, the Jan-Ai Scholarship Fund has given awards to 229 students since April 2007. The fund has raised about $89,000 for students in southern New Jersey.
"I still have tons and tons of (Jennifer's) art," Walker said, "I'm biased because I'm her mother, but I think everything that she did is wonderful."
The photo exhibit in the library in Ventnor runs to Sept. 11, and photo prices vary from $15 to $45. See jan-aischolar.org.
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