When you meet artists like Barbara Hengstenberg, it’s easy to understand that they value arts. But Barbara, founder of WildesArt, Board Member & Volunteer Coordinator at the NC Arts Incubator values arts for so many more reasons than the fact that she, herself, is an artist. Her desire to bring people together through art is inspiring. Her belief that you can find art in anything is notable. And her experiences through art are fun to learn about.
We enjoyed sitting down with Barbara to talk about her support of the arts, including the Chatham Arts Council. We hope you will enjoy understanding the reasons for her generosity here and perhaps, be inspired to give.
Did you have a strong involvement with art as a child? Was there an arts program in your school as a child? When I was a child, we had “art on the cart” so basically, no, we didn’t have an arts program. It didn’t influence me at all. I always doodled as a child. I would draw fast outlines and then go in and color them in. I would make note cards for people. Then, I started painting in High School and that’s when I started taking a lot of arts classes. I enjoyed oil and acrylic painting. My parents allowed me to paint on their kitchen wall. It took me three years to paint a waterfall mural and my parents were so patient! My dad put a frame around it. It stayed on my parents’ wall from 1979 until 2014, when he sold his house.
What does art mean to you? Art is expression. Simply put – it’s just expression. You can pretty much make anything art. If you look at all the different genres of art, they’re all forms of expression.
How does art motivate you or affect you on a daily basis? Art is good therapy. I enjoy a few different kinds of art: pen and ink drawings, painted collage, nature prints, writing, quilting – and working on each of those pieces really takes me away. It’s often hard to find time to do it, but when you do, those are the days that you find it was really important. I try to prioritize art so that I can attempt to do some sort of art each day.
Where would you like to see art where it doesn’t exist now? Out on the street! We need more public art.
There is a mural society in Siler City. JR Butler, a muralist, has been creating new murals throughout the town. We’ve added metal sculptures by Jason Morris in front of the NC Arts Incubator. We need more art that people can see, touch, and feel.
What would you say to young people who want to be involved with the arts? Throw aside perfection! You do not have to pursue perfection or create perfection to be an artist. What will stand out is your authenticity, not perfection. Find ways to be creative and try not to judge yourself too much. Be open-minded. Respect other people’s way of looking at things. Be inspired by others’ work; don’t think of them as competition.
Why do you think the arts are valuable in Chatham County? Art brings people together. I see it in Siler City all the time. I’m on the board of the North Carolina Arts Incubator and I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for our new NC Artshop. When we have an art show at the PAF Gallery at NC Arts Incubator, people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and cultures come together to enjoy an evening of art and music.
Because art brings people together. I see it in Siler City all the time. I’m on the board of the North Carolina Arts Incubator and I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for our new NC Artshop. When we have an art show at the PAF Gallery at NC Arts Incubator, people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and cultures come together to enjoy an evening of art and music. They’re all just enjoying the art, thinking, participating in conversation together.
Why did you decide to give to the Chatham Arts Council? I’ve been involved at some level with the CAC since moving to Chatham four years ago. I come from an elementary school background but have always been an artist. When I moved here, I decided I wanted to focus more on my art so I got in touch with Cheryl Chamblee to see how I could become involved.
I’ve had meetings with various people in the organization and I’ve learned that the CAC is an all-encompassing organization for what it does and who is involved. It’s not divisive, pitting fine arts against performance arts, etc. The artist directory is a great example because it includes all sorts of artists. I picture the CAC as a treasure chest. You reach in and you don’t know what you’ll pull out – a writer, a performer, a visual artist. I love that!
And then there’s the education part. The arts in schools are so necessary. When I was a classroom teacher, I always put arts and performance art into my class and I found it’s a way to reach kids who you wouldn’t otherwise be reaching. The kid who was usually reluctant to write or speak would all the sudden be up, participating, and acting out a part. It allows kids to shine. And this was true for me as a kid too. I see the benefits of the arts for everyone.
What would you say to others who feel there are more important causes to give to? If I’m not an artist and I live in Chatham County, why would I give? Enrichment. Giving is a way to touch kids’ lives. It’s helping the community around us. I give more because the CAC does good work. It’s not one program, it’s programs that spread goodness in a time of such negativity. It’s important to get the word out about good things happening.
Through donations like yours, where/how would you like to see the CAC grow? I’d love the CAC to try to encourage people in our community who may not realize they’re creative. The word “art” can be intimidating. Some people don’t realize music, performances, cooking, floral arrangements – any form of expression is art. Even a gorgeous flower made from foam in a latte is art. Perhaps the CAC can increase awareness that there is art all around us. In turn, this may raise an appreciation for art.