Jan Cheves, Creator
The Sports Zoo, a multi-media children's project, supports the notion that timing is everything. It was in the early 90's that Jan Cheves first created the concept for this adventure. She spent many years, both before and after the idea was birthed, working as an accountant, then publisher and later as a realtor in The Research Triangle Park in the Raleigh, NC area. Life was challenging, raising a family and working full-time. So when the idea was born in her imagination for a children's project, it fell to the back of a long list of priorities and lay dormant for the better part of 25 years. During that time, she would occasionally delve into her notebooks, and get excited about her ideas for the project, but would always end up setting it aside for a future day.
Jan learned some of the skills she would need for bringing The Sports Zoo to life, while working as general manager for Coman Publishing, producer of several sports papers. It was also there that she was taught by owner Stuart Coman how to create a business, conduct the research and sow the seed through growth to an actual product. It was also Coman who would give her the encouragement to take a chance pursuing a dream. In 1994, she left that position to start her own publishing company. The company, JTC Sports, produced a monthly soccer periodical, Soccer News. The company also produced several books, Training Soccer Champions by Anson Dorrance, Standing Fast, Battles of a Champion by Michele Akers, The Champion Within by Lauren Greg, Our Aging Brain, Changing and Growing by Harold Nash and a children's book by Carol McGinley, Allyn's Embarrassing & Mysterious Irish Adventures.
In 2008, when her children left for college and family life had settled down, she thought it was time to pull The Sports Zoo off the shelf and focus on bringing it to life again. However, life had different ideas. Carter Cheves, Jan's husband of 30+ years was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. The next four years were a blur of doctor's visits, work, fear and many life adjustments. Following Carter's death in 2012, there were more challenges and adjustments. Jan's only sister, two of her brothers, one sister-in-law and her father all died during a short seven years. During this period, it seemed fortuitous that she met Jan McGimsey, through Jan's husband Rick, friend and former high school classmate. While she wasn't quite ready to jump headlong into pursuing the entire project, it seemed that fate wanted her to lay the groundwork, and she hired Jan to do some original artwork for the project, knowing it may be quite a while before she could take it to another level of completion.
Finally, it is 2019, and more than 25 years after the initial idea took hold. The time has come to set aside grief, take the plunge and devote energy and love into an adventure she hopes will bring joy, amusement and more childhood physical involvement into the world.
Jan McGimsey, Artist Book 1
Jan McGimsey is the artist for the first in a series of Sports Zoo children's books. She created 18 original art pieces for Book 1, which includes the cover art and interior of a 32-page book for pre-schoolers through kindergarten.
Although McGimsey spent decades devoted to a career in the health industry, as Rehab Director for In Motion Rehab, it was almost by accident that she discovered a second calling in an unexpected arena. She was introduced to wine-glass painting by a close friend, simply as a fun activity to share together. This quickly led to the revelation that she had a joy for painting and possessed unique talent. The next few years were spent working full-time and honing her skills during off hours, painting glasses for her daughter-in-law's gift shop, and contributing items for fund-raising events to benefit veterans, cancer research, Boys and Girls clubs, domestic violence/abuse shelters and more.
After meeting in 2015, Cheves had an opportunity to see Jan's art and realized the style portrayed the whimsical look she had imagined for the Sports Zoo book. It took a little over two years to complete the paintings, which serve as the foundation for the venture.
Originally from Evanston, Illinois, just outside Chicago, McGimsey has since retired from her full-time job, but continues painting wine glasses for family and friends, and regularly donates pieces to the Southeastern Guide Dogs gift shop. She currently lives in Largo, Florida with husband Rick, spending more time with their sons, Ryan (wife Morgan) and Kyle (wife Trish), and enjoying the role of grandmother to Collins and Kaden.