People give to the Chatham Arts Council for lots of different reasons. And we’re grateful for them all! We sat down with Nancy Hardin to learn more about her connection to the arts and her generosity to the Chatham Arts Council. From seeing something unique in the connection between theater artist Mike Wiley and the students he worked with through the Artists-in-Schools Initiative, to recalling fond memories of ecclesiastical art from childhood, Nancy Hardin has been inspired to give.
We hope you enjoy reading more about Nancy and perhaps be inspired to give, too.
Why did you decide to give to the CAC? We attended the fall fundraiser event in 2018 at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center as the guests of friends, and during that dinner, still photographs of Artists-in-Schools were projected on the walls. In a photo, I saw Mike Wiley and how the children were relating to him. I had been inspired by Mike Wiley through his work on the stage in Blood Done Sign My Name. I figured, if he could inspire the children the way he inspired me, that would be icing on an education cake!
Knowing that I could not give as much money as I would want to, I decided the way to contribute would be to have a party and invite people who could each give a little. I knew we could do more together than we could individually.
What does art mean to you? My father was a Methodist minister, and as we went through life when some daily occurrence would strike us funny as a family, our joke was – “there’s a sermon in that.” Art is the interpretation like a sermon would be, of life. It’s what you see or what you feel, what you think other people are seeing and feeling – in addition to what you can see and recognize that you feel. I think sometimes through viewing or doing art, one can recognize emotions within oneself that no amount of therapy or introspection could bring.
Why do you think the arts are valuable in Chatham County? My initial reaction is to say that much of the rural part of the county would not have exposure to the arts because they might not be as mobile or financially able to explore. But I think we, as in the more urban areas, have a lot to learn from the more rural areas. Living a life one day to the next, working hard and going to sleep exhausted is an art form in itself. There are more simple endeavors that have been handed down from one generation to the next in rural counties that we should pay attention to. We also have a large non-native American population that brings art from various cultures.
How does art motivate you or affect you on a daily basis? The art Carol and I have in our home was all selected by us because it moved us in one way or another. I try to look at those pieces on a daily basis with fresh eyes. When the eyes aren’t fresh, they are at least appreciative that the art is a part of my life. I think about the person who created the art, some of whom I know, most of whom I don’t know, and imagine what their lives were like when they made the art, wonder what they’re up to now… I don’t know that it always moves me to action, but it moves me to notice.
Is there a specific element or program from the CAC that most excites you and why? Artists-in-Schools – I just think it’s an incredible boost to the curriculum. A lot of my friends think that a jewelry maker or painter or potter will go to a school and show the kids how to do that. That’s a lovely idea, but that’s not what this is about. It took me a while to recognize that. I had to attend the Mike Wiley performance at Silk Hope School last year to see what the program accomplished. And that’s what really got me fired up.
What would you say to others who feel there are more important causes to give to? We were confronted with that response when we asked people to join us at the fundraising gathering at our home. People explained why they declined our invitation – because they had earmarked their donation dollars for what they considered to be more important. I guess when I got those responses, I realized that I was not equipped to be an evangelist for Artists-in-Schools. Carol and I care about a lot of things too and we don’t have a great deal of money to give, but we give as much as we can to very diverse causes that we consider important. We just happen to be the kind of people who are not solely giving to one cause, and as such hope that we are setting an example for others.
Was there an arts program in your school as a child? There was not a strong arts program in any school I attended from K-12 – or if there was, I didn’t know about it. I personally was much more involved in athletics, and the only other art I was aware of was music (people involved in band or orchestra).
When I was born, my family was living in Black Mountain, NC and my dad was the minister there, but he also taught a religion class at Black Mountain College. He and my mom were exposed to the amazing artists who were there – Will Henry Stevens, Alberto Giacometti, Josef Albers, Merce Cunningham, Willem de Kooning – so their influence was a part of our household. And of course, ecclesiastical art – tapestries or stained glass or sculpture – was a big part of our lives because we were in churches all the time.
What would you say to young people who want to be involved with the arts? Go for it! Find a mentor. Keep all your doors open. Don’t be embarrassed.
What would you say to other people who are considering giving to the CAC? You can’t go wrong! A little bit can go a long way.
If you are inspired by Nancy’s story, please donate here.