Youth Arts event focus is diversity

By Terry Harris

When local, nationally known artist Norman Wyatt Jr was honored at the Jessica A. Moore Center in Waverly last month, he said that he was not to promote his own work, but to pass on knowledge gained from experience to the aspiring young artists participating in the Building and Healing through Art event. 

“I feel really privileged to be able to give back to any community,” Wyatt said, “but especially here in my comm that I’m close to. I feel so humbled to potentially be able to inspire any creative person, and just very excited to be able to encourage and in any way lead someone that’s creative to the next part of their career or to express their talent.”

Wyatt, who sells his Norman Wyatt Home Brand collection on, Wayfair, Walmart, Inc, and Amazon, brought in images from his popular coastal collection, and said that in his profession the key is to try to bring something different because it “always works well if you have something unique that someone can put to your name or imagery or style to your name.” He emphasized that he wants young people to understand that if handled right, royalties from images can provide a good living for talented artists in ways they might not have imagined, and throughout the afternoon. And as he answered questions about Norman Wyatt Home, a home décor brand he sells through, Wayfair, Walmart, Amazon, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and others against a backdrop of oils from his own collection, he continued to encourage the young people gathered for the event. 

According to event organizer Felicia Bailey, that was exactly what the day was about.

“Art Forum is an ongoing project to motivate our young people,” Bailey explained. “It’s about introducing culture and art to the community - getting young artists together for conversations about art. Acknowledging what they do as kids.”

“Art is not something in our community that’s vivid and visual,” she continued. “So, giving these young people the opportunity to blend with older is very important. It could give them understanding of different things that go on in the community - link them together.”

Bailey, who said that she developed because of her love of art, added, “It’s important for kids and all people to understand that together we can be great.  The organization brings businesses together to help bring activities and art and culture to our community and to promote entrepreneurship amongst all cultures.  It’s a diverse group. It’s not a target group of African Americans. It’s not about race.  It’s not about slavery. It’s not about all of that.  It’s about building a community together - combining and diversifying our community.”

One surprise Bailey introduced as part of the arts celebration was the on-the-spot production of a colorful, larger-than-life artwork on an old, dilapidated building at the edge of the Center property by Emporia muralist Christopher Smith.   Although rain that evening delayed completion of the piece, he returned the following week and worked well into the night to finish the colorful abstract piece.

“I was excited to be able to do something like this,” he said. “I had numerous people come out that night to watch and thank me for being there and helping out. I like helping out where I can, especially in a community that needs it like they did.  I was glad to be able to get involved and put some stuff out there toward a good cause.”

As a muralist by trade, he makes his living on similar pieces, but said that he did this one in service of the community.

“Obviously, we all have to make money and pay bills,” he added, “but I believe in Karma and I think you put out there what you want to come back in, so you do this stuff and good stuff comes back.”

Afterward, Bailey said that she was pleased with how the event was received, adding, “I feel like for everyone who was there it actually did what it needed to do as far as creativity is concerned, and I think there was a lot of good networking that was good for the younger artists.”

Adding that more, similar events are planned but not yet scheduled, she said, “We do know that it will be sometime in June, and we are already looking for other artists.”

Further information on upcoming events, availability of artist spots, and mural possibilities is available at 757-636-0849 or 804-572-0119.