For the dynamic duo, Kris and Dwayne Howard, a love of the arts grew from Dwayne’s children’s inspiration and commitment to theater and performance art. The Howards, who have been in Chatham County since 1995, have been incredibly supportive of Dwayne’s two children, Heather and Blake – both of whom have pursued careers in the arts and are currently in Los Angeles and Washington, DC deep in the arts scene.
Kris, the owner of Chatham Homes Realty (with offices in Pittsboro, Siler City, and Apex) and Dwayne, the owner of Mid-South Builders, a custom home building company, have been patrons of the arts so that other children, like Heather and Blake, will be encouraged to pursue their dreams.
We hope you enjoy reading more about Kris and Dwayne Howard and perhaps get inspired to give too.
Why did you decide to give to the CAC? Kris: We are both athletic and came from athletic backgrounds, but we realized from the time Heather and Blake were young that they were not going to be athletic. They’ve both been artistic since they were little. They attended the University of NC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem (one for high school and one for college) and have careers in the arts even now.
We believe that every child should have the opportunity to be exposed to the arts. If they don’t see the arts, they may not know they’d like it.
Dwayne: Heather and Blake have broadened our horizon and expanded our view of the arts. We’ve always loved the arts, but they were a bigger influence on us than we were on them.
What does art mean to you? Art is everywhere. Sculptures. Pottery. Music. Games at ClydeFEST and Clyde with his chainsaw. That’s all art! Our art comes from theater.
Dwayne is a builder but he’s also an artist of mixed wood bowls. He has a sawmill and wood-turns everything – goblets, bowls and even items friends ask him to make (like a cross for a wedding ceremony). It’s a hobby of his.
Why do you think the arts are valuable in Chatham County? Chatham County is known for the arts. We have Hewitt Pottery and the Chatham Artist Guild’s Studio Arts Tours. The Chatham Arts Council has amazing folks so we try to support everything we can.
How does art motivate you or affect you on a daily basis? Dwayne: I build houses every day so I see the tile man installing tile or the masonry work and it’s a trade skill, but it’s also an art form to do it uniquely. That’s how it affects me daily.
Kris: We enjoy working with homeowners and their architects every day and we appreciate everything about it! We love admiring architecture – even a light fixture in a house can be artistic.
We have a wall in our house Dwayne created made out of 100 year-old tobacco sticks that he found at our family farm. When he saw the pile of them, he decided he would cut them up and make a wall out of them. That’s art and it’s something I walk past and admire every day!
Is there a specific element or program from the CAC that most excites you and why? Artists-in-Schools because it exposes kids to the arts who would never have exposure otherwise. (Mike Wiley and his one-man show is pretty awesome!) Kids could be growing up on a farm and not know much about the arts – but they could turn out to be the next new star!
What would you say to others who feel there are more important causes to give to? Kris: The arts bring a community together. We are thrilled about the new theater Mosaic is planning in Chatham Park. Dwayne and I had talked about how we could open a theater in a big empty open block a while back. This new theater will bring amazing opportunities to the county.
Dwayne: The arts are so important. For us, we realize the importance because of the impact it’s had on Heather’s and Blake’s lives. But take the example of Condoleezza Rice, who is also a concert pianist. (She’s performed for the Queen of England!) She says the arts helped her get through difficult situations while growing up in the racially segregated south.
Where would you like to see art where it doesn’t exist now? We’d love to see more youth theater so we’re excited about the new theater coming. But we also want to ensure it is affordable so that it’s accessible to everyone – like Temple Theatre. That’s affordable.
What would you say to young people who want to be involved with the arts? Dwayne: Sometimes parents don’t want their kids to be involved in arts because they’re afraid of the starving artist idea. We never stopped Heather and Blake. We always encouraged them. I would say that parents need to be involved so that they can help encourage their kids to be involved too.
Kris: Parents should encourage their kids to do what they love.
Did you have a strong involvement with art as a child? Kris: No! But my college roommate at Elon was in theater. I was playing soccer. (Side note: Kris, who was Kris Porter in college, is in the Sports Hall of Fame at Elon. She played against Mia Hamm throughout college.) My roommate and I were such opposites, but we had so much fun together. She needed a stage manager for The Fantasticks show they were putting together so I volunteered to help. It was my first experience with theater and I had no idea what I was doing! I fell in love with it then and now I know how hard performers work.
If you are inspired by Kris and Dwayne’s story, please donate here.