Dorrie Casey and Archie Purcell have lived in Chatham County for 40 years. Dorrie, a visual artist who makes incredible pieces from found objects, lives and breathes the arts. It is what fuels her. It is her language. Archie, a retired entrepreneur, having worked in the start-up, growth, and sale of several marketing services companies, appreciates the arts and is extremely passionate and generous about sharing that appreciation with others.
We sat down outdoors (in a socially distanced fashion) to learn more about their support of the arts, including the Chatham Arts Council. Their honesty and dedication inspired us, and we hope it will inspire you too! Read on to learn more about why they value arts.
Why did you decide to give to the CAC?
Dorrie: I grew up in a small town in Maine and I was a good student, but I wasn’t that interested in academics. We had art – music and theater – and I watched how the music and theater teachers worked together to get everybody in the school involved. I don’t care if you were barely able to read and write, this was something that everybody could do; it addressed our inner life. Not only did it create a sense of accomplishment in putting together concerts or performances, it also created an amazing sense of connectedness. It was the sense that we are all one. That came entirely from these two particular teachers. It completely changed the trajectory of my life. I heard from people at the Chatham Arts Council that there were kids out there for whom this type of art in the schools was helping. You can see people coming alive.
Archie: We are interested in supporting the Chatham Arts Council because it’s in Chatham County, and we live in Chatham. Supporting the Chatham Arts Council provides a little bit of a way to help some of those kids have an eye-opening experience.
What does art mean to you?
Dorrie: Art is everything. It’s how the tomatoes on the plate look. It’s important that they look a certain way and have an appeal. I cannot imagine an existence without it. It’s what makes the world meaningful. There are layers of meaning. Scientists would say there are layers of physics and that’s wonderful, but there is a whole group of people whose minds don’t work that way. It’s a non-linear way of communicating with myself and the world because that’s how my brain works.
Archie: I think for me, art is a way to see things differently. Whether it be a painting or a Mike Wiley production or a piece of music, it gives me a different perspective on whatever the “thing” is. It’s a different way to look at the “thing” or hear the “things” – the words the performer is saying so that it gets turned this way or that way or I think, ‘Gee, I never thought about it being this way.’ And I think for kids, it’s particularly important that they can realize there’s another way to do whatever they’ve been doing. Another way to see it. Art is a way to re-frame the world around me in a small way.
Why do you think the arts are valuable in Chatham County?
Archie: I think the arts are valuable everywhere, but the challenge in Chatham is to get the arts to be more pervasive throughout the schools and communities.
Dorrie: Chatham is a big diverse county and I think the arts could be a kind of glue for all the parts of the county – which seem very different from one another. Art is something that cuts across socioeconomic, racial – all the divides we can think of. What’s to keep people from all walks of life from being able to communicate themselves, with other kids in the school?
Is there a specific element or program from the CAC that most excites you and why?
Dorrie: Artists-in-Schools provides something way out there for a lot of kids – a new framework for kids.
Archie: Artists-in-Schools provides for a lot of the kids in Chatham a view of something they’ve never seen before. It’s a view of something I think is really important for them to see. Without that program, they may never see it. I hope there will be some kids in these programs whose life will be forever changed by that week of Artists-in-Schools residency. There won’t be hundreds of them, but I bet there will be a kid or two who will look back on it and realize – until I saw Diali beating on the drum, I never knew I could make a career in percussion.
Dorrie: I really think there probably are hundreds of those kids.
What would you say to others who feel there are more important causes to give to?
Dorrie: I would say that there’s nothing more important, and you don’t have to give thousands of dollars. If you give $25, and every adult in the county gave $25, you’re saying we’re all in this together.
Archie: I think we unconsciously spend money on little things. A $5 cup of Starbucks coffee, the special treat you buy at the grocery store, the subscription for an online music service. With each of those, you’re making a choice to spend the money that way. But $10-15 added up over 12 months is $120 a year! That’s money that can help this cause. Having the commitment to spend money for a specific cause is good for the person who decides to give the money.
Dorrie: Even though we don’t have children, I am eager to pay taxes to put money into the schools. When all those kids do better, we all do better!
Through donations like yours, where/how would you like to see the CAC grow?
Dorrie: It seems to me that focus is key. Continue on the path that’s working. For example, instead of moving on to different programs, I would say keep on the path we’re going on here. Maybe there’s enough money to add additional grades to the Artists-in-Schools program. There’s a track record, there’s enthusiasm behind the program from within the schools (kids and teachers), so keep doing it.
Archie: Continued emphasis on providing arts exposure to kids, would be my hope.
Dorrie: It’s a good message to kids to say we’re all artists in some way. You don’t have to make a living being an artist to make it a really important part of your life. Art can just feed you. I would like that to be a really important message we send – we all have art and can partake in art without it having to be everything.
Where would you like to see art where it doesn’t exist now?
Dorrie: Where do kids go when they’re not at home or school? The coffee shop, the library – places that are open to everybody. I think it’s really important to see art in these places. I do wish Chatham County had some big, important art galleries where there were big shows featuring artists who are doing this for a living, but I think it’s just as important to give the message that art is really for everyone.
Archie: I would like art to be integral to what the world is, rather than being a separate/special thing. Art doesn’t have to be precious! You can make a pile of stones into something, and it can be artwork, and someone can knock it down tomorrow. It was still art. Art is somebody’s expression of the way they feel or think.
What would you say to young people who want to be involved with the arts?
Dorrie: I’m case in point because I didn’t know how to do art. I didn’t even have a box of crayons when I was young. I would say – whatever moves you, attracts you, pay attention to that! It’s a sign that it’s important to you! Don’t let anybody else’s idea influence what you’re going to do. If you feel like all you want to do is paint cicadas – do it. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you!
Archie: Pursue what interests you, and don’t be sidetracked by other people’s reaction to it. It’s your path, and if it’s a path that feels good to you, continue down that path. Do the thing that can bring a sense of satisfaction. If you’re going to write a novel, write it as if no one’s ever going to read it.
If you are inspired by Dorrie and Archie’s story and feel compelled to support artists and arts in education, click here.