Betty Wilson exudes creativity. She was a Kindergarten teacher at Pittsboro Elementary for 10 years at a time when there was only a list of general skills her pupils needed to accomplish by the time they graduated. She embedded the arts into most lessons, having the uncanny ability to pivot at a moment’s notice if something interesting caught her eye (to the dismay of her Teacher’s Assistant!). She got a Masters’ Degree in Counseling and moved on to become the first guidance counselor at the school, again, leaving the door to creativity wide open to best help her students.
As a mother of six children and a wife to a horticulturalist, Betty Wilson has been surrounded by multiple forms of art throughout her life. She has inspired us! We hope you enjoy learning more about why she values arts.
Why did you decide to give to the CAC?
I’ve always appreciated art. I’m not an artist myself, but my children were. I’ve always encouraged them to do their art, which they’ve done. So that was my inspiration. My daughter, Bett, is on the board of the CAC. My oldest son is an architect. My other son, Rouse, does beautiful things with wood. My daughter Braxton does beautiful macrame. My daughter Charlotte majored in art at UNC and she does a lot with mosaics. My youngest daughter, Jane Allen, has been involved in acting with improv. And as a Kindergarten teacher, I encouraged my little students to be artistic with clay, and everything else.
What does art mean to you?
I guess it means a way to express yourself when you don’t have words. Art just gives me satisfaction. I used to do sketchings with pen and ink and I loved that. I raised six kids and art gave me the satisfaction of a beginning and an end – completing something – and also, doing something for myself.
There was a woman in Siler City named Mrs. Sizemore. Every Saturday in the summers, she taught art lessons with oil paintings in her basement. I took my kids there to have an art experience and the truth is, I became interested too, so I took lessons along with the kids. I loved it as much as they did!
Why do you think the arts are valuable in Chatham County?
I think the arts are important everywhere, but in Chatham County we are blessed to have a lot of artists. The variety of artists we have adds so much to our culture and who we are. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m so glad so many artists have come here.
How does art motivate you or affect you on a daily basis?
You can go where you want to with art. You can admire the beauty of art or express yourself through art – there are so many things you can do. I think art is inspirational.
I live in a town home and when I moved in, it had this little fenced in backyard, but it was just mulch. Nothing was growing. Now my yard has art, flowers, shrubs. Just seeing the art and the natural growth in my yard is a joy to behold. I look out my back window and soak in the beauty of that little yard. It’s my little nest.
Is there a specific element or program from the CAC that most excites you and why?
Artists-in-Schools! I’m an educator at heart. The structure of school has gotten to be more rigid so I think it’s very important to give children the opportunity to bloom and express themselves and do something relaxing and satisfying. With all the pressures put on kids, it’s really important. The children love the Artists-in-Schools program and they get an appreciation of art that they take into adulthood.
What would you say to others who feel there are more important causes to give to?
With COVID, we can’t just think about just the physical impact. We have to think about what it has done to us emotionally too. Art and music put sparkle into a dreary restricted life. The arts are more important now than ever.
What would you say to young people who want to be involved with the arts?
Follow your heart! If you feel an inspiration, go for it. If you’re drawn to art, go for it.
I will never forget, when I was a Kindergarten teacher, we had an art center and I had a little girl who refused to put her fingers into the finger paint. She was raised to not get her hands dirty. I felt sorry that she felt so restricted. For kids who have been restricted because of their parents’ need for tidiness, I’d like to provide a place where they can cut loose and make a mess if they want to.
Did you have a strong involvement with art as a child?
No, I did not. My mother wanted to keep a perfectly tidy, nice house – which I appreciated. But I wanted my children to have more freedom and be able to make a creative mess. I had a screened in porch for my children and I’d buy stacks of newsprint paper and easels and they knew they could go out there and paint anytime they wanted.
As a teacher, I wanted to make my students love learning and find out new things. We used art to do this. One of the biggest projects we did was to make a six-foot dinosaur out of chicken wire. We covered it with paper Mache and painted it. When I retired from PES, it was still hanging from the ceiling of the library.
If you are inspired by Betty’s story and feel compelled to support the arts in Chatham County, click here.