Ann Crews Melton
The author's grandmother, Doris Crews Jenkins.

Elizabeth Melton paints with watercolors at Grandma's house circa 1990.

Ann Crews Melton and Emily Melton with Doris Crews Jenkins in 1999.

I spent my youth surrounded by creative, smart women. My maternal grandmother, Doris Crews Jenkins, was valedictorian of her small country high school in Winona, Texas, in 1943. She graduated from college (the first in her family) with a double major in art and education and eventually went on to earn her master's degree. In her 35 years teaching elementary school, she incorporated art into her lessons, and she continued to paint with watercolors at home. When my sisters and I went over to her house, she would often have watercolor sets with paint brushes sitting in cups of water waiting for us.

Although my grandmother did not have the opportunity to pursue being a professional artist when she began her career in the 1940s, she expressed herself creatively in every area of her life, and she encouraged creativity in her students, children and grandchildren. As a result her elder daughter (my aunt) did become a professional artist and graphic designer, and my mom has spent time as a calligrapher, teacher and professional musician. I express myself creatively through writing, and I have one sister who is an art teacher and another pursuing a doctorate in performance studies (a hybrid of theater and communications). We Jenkins/Melton women are a force to be reckoned with (as are our closets, full of creative mayhem and art supplies). I carry my grandmother's maiden name as my middle name, and although she passed away several years ago, I know she is honored every time it appears in print.

Acknowledging the ways women use creativity -- whether through visual art, culinary art, music, fashion or a creative approach to parenting -- celebrates the legacy of the women who came before us, who often went unacknowledged in their creative gifts that were for many generations limited to the sphere of the home. Now, in 2014, women are able to express themselves creatively in a variety of professions, although the uniqueness of an all-woman band, and a female conductor, speak to the playing field still needing a bit of adjustment (ahem). With this issue of Be, I'm excited to celebrate women and their creative enterprises around the Bismarck-Mandan area, and I hope you will be inspired to express yourself creatively as well. Be creative -- be yourself.

Ann Crews Melton is the granddaughter of Doris and Lou Ann, the daughter of Rebecca, the niece of Jeanna, and sister to Emily and Elizabeth. She is a writer and editor who lives in Bismarck.