Wilson art brings a new dawn after 9/11

By Oliver Hedgepeth
Posted 9/16/19

The day after we all remembered the disaster and pain of 9/11, the Wilson Active Artist Association chose to celebrate hope and happiness and remembrance of what it is to be a Wilsonian. The …

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Wilson art brings a new dawn after 9/11

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The day after we all remembered the disaster and pain of 9/11, the Wilson Active Artist Association chose to celebrate hope and happiness and remembrance of what it is to be a Wilsonian. The group’s annual art show at 104 Douglas St. was overflowing with excited people full of ideas and dreams and memories, including dozens of “framed dreams” filling every wall.


We are an art colony in many ways. The WAAA began as an idea in 1964 and formalized in 1965, according to comments from Kim Joy, the group’s president, at this year’s opening. That is the year that we Baby Boomers were graduating from Fike High and other high schools around the country. But, when I was 13, one of these early artists held an art class at the recreation center and taught me and about a dozen other teenagers how to paint, how to see art and how to see people and things in a new way.

We painted a large portrait of a young girl and the Hatteras lighthouse, which I still have on my office wall. We Baby Boomers were being mentored by these Wilson artists to be innovative, be creative, be inspiring. These artists planted seeds of hope and accomplishment for all of us wannabe artists. We learned what a straight line was. We learned how colors can change. We learned to trust ourselves and our instincts.

The somber feelings of remembrance of where we were on Sept. 11, 2001, was replaced the next day, the next sunrise, the next full moon rise. The opening reception of Wilsonian artists, with live music, some neat food and drinks grabbed your mind and spirit. But those visiting did not need any encouragement to rub elbows and ideas with the artists. They were all over the place laughing and smiling and ready to answer questions about how to paint that picture of a rose, or what color is best as a highlight. The art show was a huge success in memory of what has become a tradition.


These 54 years of art is now at a place to help in another way. When we read in The Wilson Times how we were brought up in those days to study writing, reading and arithmetic. Today that’s called STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. But, that way of teaching is now coming under evaluation to be replaced with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics). The STEM labs and curriculum is in the Wilson County School system and produces many great ideas from the students. They are being given ability to use all that STEM knowledge and technology such as 3D printing to create innovative tools or just replacement parts rather than purchase them in a store. STEM is introducing artificial intelligence and robots as part of their ability to see complex problems and to create new solutions. Our kids in Wilson are being educated and trained to be the next Baby Boomers of the next century. But the Wilson educators found the missing link in STEM by adding art to STEM.

The Wilson Times on Aug. 23 noted how students adding the art part to STEM demonstrated more ideas, were more creative and innovative. Leonardo da Vinci was a painter but also an engineering genius. He was known to study everything. Wilson is now poised to see many such da Vincis coming from our tobacco fields and playgrounds with that “a” added to STEM education.

So, how can the Wilson Active Artist Association help with our next generation of Baby Boomers of technology and art inventors? How can the WAAA merge with our school system?

At the annual art show, several artists told me stories of one or maybe two artists who were working with K-12 students in schools. That is a start. The time is ripe for an idea. Maybe the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology and the Wilson County middle schools, all our K-12 schools, should see how they can work more together. Make the “a” in STEAM a giant “A” in advancing Wilson’s future students to be the greatest engineers and scientists or machinists and architects, as well as that next world-class oil painter or creator of whirligigs.

Maybe artist Andrea Horton-Morton can demonstrate her creative abstract art or how to show a whale’s tail in broken glass and resin. Or have Jane Gardner demonstrate how to paint roses. These artists are part of our K-12 heritage, from when I was 13 to those who are 13 now. Art opens the mind to new ideas, provides a secret set of lenses to see the world in a whole new light.


The Wilson Active Artists Association showed us a new day after 9/11. It is a new time to see the increased positive role models of our Wilsonians.

So, Wilson Chamber of Commerce, Wilson school leaders, our WAAA art family, and our neighbors, let’s explore a new business idea for the next generation of Baby Boomers of tomorrow. Oh, and do not forget to invite those budding art students from Barton College. A place where educators are born and where the next generation of teachers is coming from.

Now, visit the exhibit until Oct. 3.

Oliver Hedgepeth, born and reared in Wilson, is now back taking care of the family home. Email him at blh4835@gmail.com.