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Interview with Ann Newbold Perkins, September 27, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Ann Newbold Perkins, September 27, 2006
Date:
September 27, 2006
Description:
Born in Depression-Era Wilmington, Ann Newbold Perkins was raised in a historic home on the Cape Fear River. She has been a staff artist for the Richmond, VA library system, and also played a role in establishing a community art center there. Ann's artwork has been described as colorful, lively, and showing great expression. In the summer of 2006, her pieces were exhibited at the WHQR radio station in Wilmington, and she is currently working toward larger local exposure.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Perkins, Ann Newbold Interviewer:  Jones, Carroll and Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview:  12/27/2006 Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes

 

Q: It is December 27, 2006, and I am Carroll Jones with Jerry Parnell for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Program. And today we are talking with Ann Newbold Perkins of Wilmington, North Carolina. Good afternoon, Ann.

Ann Perkins: Thank you.

Q: I would like to get started this morning, or this afternoon, by asking you where you grew up, what kind of work your family did, how many brothers and sisters you had, and things like that.

Ann Perkins: I was born the granddaughter of a surgeon but I was born at home, like the rest of my siblings, at 1 Church Street in Wilmington, North Carolina. My grandfather was dead, was deceased at that time. Grew up in that big old house that was built by a shipbuilder in 1828. It was bought by my great grandfather in 1882, and stayed in our family until my mother died in 1992. So it was a wonderful house, fourteen rooms, lots - no central heat. So you were either freezing or burning up. And we just had a good time there. My father said because we had so many people there, children there, that the neighborhood all came. And there was no grass in the yard until we all went to college, and he was able to get a lawn started. But we lived right there on the river. We, the first four of us, slept in hospital beds that came from my grand - great - grandfather's surgery on Front Street in Castle.

Q: What was your grandfather's name?

Ann Perkins: Charles T. Harper. And we had a big sleeping porch on the second floor, and that is where the beds were. And everything was fine unless we had a real good rain. Then we would have to pull our mattresses in and put them on the floor of the large bedroom behind us and sleep the rest of the night. But we lived on a hill so we were never really bothered by the hurricanes. I don't remember Wilmington being really hit by a hurricane until I left town, and then I would read that it would be really hit. But the joke in our family was that the reason we were never hit is - when we were growing up there was because the eye of the hurricane would meet the eye of my mother and go back out to sea. So we never had to fear. But I can remember people from Wrightsville Beach and other nearby places coming to spend the night with us if there was a problem at the beaches. I grew up in Wilmington at a time that was very quiet. I remember that we did not even lock our doors at night, which seems unbelievable now. And I lived in Wilmington until I was married in 1951. And I came back recently after fifty-three years in Richmond, Virginia. But I went to Towson School, which is now the Catholic Clinic for Hispanics or other people in need. And I grew up in First Presbyterian Church. I was baptized there. My grandmother had gone there, my mother and daddy, of course. And all of us went there. And when - after I finished going to school, I worked there as a secretary and then as a Director of Christian Education for four years before I got married. But getting back. I did go to New Hanover High School, graduated in 1940, and then when four of us graduated in three years, I took a business course while waiting my turn, and the money to -

Q: Ann, would you tell us about the sets of twins in your family. When you said a moment ago that, did you say three or four of you graduated?

Ann Perkins: Four of us graduated.

Q: Yeah, well, that might explain it.

Ann Perkins: I was one of six, an older sister, then a twin brother and sister. Then I came. And then four years later twin brothers. So I was one between two sets of twins, so I had to speak up for myself or get lost in the shuffle. But it was - I look back on it as a very happy time. My father was a soil chemist, and - but his work took him out of town frequently. Some of that was occasioned by the fact that when I was growing up the Depression was in full force. And Mother had been left the house we were living in, and it was a lot cheaper for us to live there and stay here in Wilmington, and for Daddy to come home as frequently as he could. From - for a while he worked in his home town in Hertford, North Carolina, and then in Norfolk.

Q: Who did he work for?

Ann Perkins: He worked for Southern Cotton Oil Company. And they gave him a little van with a lab in it to test the soil of farmers, and then he would recommend what kind of fertilizing stuff, of course come from the company he was working for that did that. So that little lab was very fascinating to us as children. But Dad was - Daddy was also a tenor, and was in a paid quartet and sometimes he sang solo. He used to tell us about singing at the Synagogue and other places, which was, you know, exciting. So we all loved music. But when the war came along, three of 'em- I had just graduated from high school, and I took the business course to get some skills. And when I finally did get to go to college, I worked every summer as a secretary. I worked for Swift and Company.

Q: Was that here in Wilmington?

Ann Perkins: That was in Wilmington. I worked for the shipyard.

Q: Well, tell us about that, and tell us about what it was like during the war in that house of yours.

Ann Perkins: It was all right until people got desperate for rooms, and Mother was renting rooms, you know. And it was a big house. It had a big L. That went first. And fortunate we had enough half-baths in the thing, and one big bathroom that was a former bedroom in a old house like that.

Q: I think that is the one I remember.

Ann Perkins: Yeah. That we lived in. But I can remember there were people coming and going, because three of them were off at - Caroline, Jessie and Jerry were off in college most of the time. And so their rooms were available. But we would be there in the summer, and we got there, you know, at holidays and Christmas we would all be there.

Q: The people you rented to, what were they doing?

Ann Perkins: People I was -

Q: The people that were renting rooms, where did they work?

Ann Perkins: They were in the service, either they were working. For a while they were working out at Camp Davis, or they were - and the Marines came down hunting for rooms for their wives or sweethearts. And then we had something down at Southport, so there we a lot of service people in town. And our church did a lot of things for 'em. And even after the war, when the Dutch Marines were at Camp Davis for quite a while, our church entertained them, because they were the reformed Church of Scotland, the Dutch Reformed Church.

Q: But getting back to your own house, did your mother do the cooking for all these people, or did they just use it for spending the night?

Ann Perkins: They - she made certain areas that we could put up a temporary little kitchenette for them. So I guess we had two real apartments, and then occasionally we would have a room, just rent out a room to a man who was either working or going. But Mother was a pretty good cook, but she taught us how to cook early on, so we could take over. It was not her forte. But I can remember eating a lot of corn beef hash for breakfast to keep us going to school. And for a while my grandmother lived with us, but she lived down in Southport most of the time. And we would go down to see her when we were younger, because her cousin, Leta Potter, owned that Wilmington steamer that went down, down there.

Q: I was going to ask you, since you lived on the river, what kind of traffic did you see on the Cape Fear River growing up, or during World War II, did it accelerate? Can you tell us about that?

Ann Perkins: Well, my great grandfather, who had bought the house, had a business. Excuse me. He owned all the tugboats at that time. And so they would come by the house, and they got in the habit of blowing every time they went by our house, which was all right, 'cept in the middle of the night it was kind of startling.

Q: And he - what was his name?

Ann Perkins: His name was James Thomas. He bought the house. He was in shipping. And oddly enough, many years later, the Whitemans, who had bought the house and restored it and live there now, are in shipping.

Q: They own. Yes, from Scotland. They own that, right.

Ann Perkins: But I can remember the steamers coming through. You know, they were really probably boats bringing in merchandise, not really steam, pleasure steamers. But they would always blow when they went by our house. And I can remember being waked up in the middle of the night on the sleeping porch by those loud noises. But during the wars, that we did have a number of couples come in or service people. And I really wasn't old enough. At that time I was sixteen, but I didn't realize the heartache that a lot of those people were experiencing when the guys would leave and they, you know, some of them never came back. But one summer we had three guys from MIT, and they were working, not in the service. They were working somewhere else in research. And they were very interesting, and one of them married Nancy Davis, I think her name was. And that was another thing. A lot of the older girls married a lot of the northern -

Q: Yes, they did.

Ann Perkins: Northern Yankees. Can you believe it? And we didn't know what their fathers did, and who their mothers' people were. But it was interesting because we had a number of very good friends. I eventually married a Yankee, too, in a moment of insanity, but he wasn't in the service. It was much later. So it was an interesting time, and we did a lot of things at the church for the people, the service people, especially the Dutch Marines.

Q: But during World War II, you were working, but living at home?

Ann Perkins: I was going to school in the winter. I went to Peace College for two years. And that was all it was at that time, and then followed my sisters to Agnes Scott in Decatur, Georgia. But I didn't really bond with Agnes Scott. And when I came home that summer, I got a really nice job with Mr. Morris Moore in rent control. And I asked mother and daddy if I could just work a few years 'fore going back. And I ended up working more than that, but I enjoyed it. I loved making my own money. And I remember working when VJ Day happened, and the people were dancing in the streets. I was working on Princess Street, and looking down at the street that the people were so excited. And that was a wonderful thing. VE Day came sooner, didn't it?

Q: What did you do in rent control, working for rent control?

Ann Perkins: I was the receptionist and did letters. I was doing secretarial work. But I just loved some of stories I heard.

Q: I bet.

Ann Perkins: And I got - built up a little reservoir of, you know, of stories about "He blind, he don't give no receipts." And, you know, things like that, that I would entertain the family with. And when I worked for Swift and Company one summer, we always had good meat to eat, because I could get it at cost. So that was fun. But I really enjoyed working for rent control, and - but when they asked me to work at the church, I decided I would like to do that.

Q: So how long were you there?

Ann Perkins: I was there four years.

Q: What did you do between that time and when you - ? You moved to Richmond after you were married. Is that right?

Ann Perkins: Yes.

Q: And the other time you spent here in Wilmington -

Ann Perkins: In Wilmington.

Q: Working at various -

Ann Perkins: Yeah. I was twenty-six when I moved to Richmond.

Q: Was that when you married?

Ann Perkins: Yeah. I got married, you know, the year before.

Q: How did you meet your husband?

Ann Perkins: Well.

Q: Will you tell?

Ann Perkins: I met him. I can't believe this, but - I was visiting a friend of mine that had been a best friend all through elementary school and high school. She was the daughter of Albert Brown, who was the choir director at First Presbyterian Church, and the Glee Club director at the high school for years, and just a marvelous guy. And she was an only child, and so they - I had a lot of little trips and things with them, because they always wanted somebody for her to be with. Well, they moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where her mother had grown up. And I went up to visit her, and also to visit with my middle sister, who was working at the Presbyterian Church there as the Director of Christian Education. And I, we, stayed, stayed at the YWCA with her. And I met my husband during that trip. And he was, he was going to Bob Jones University. I mean, how fundamentalist can you get? And I could not believe it, but he was so handsome and so, you know, nice, I thought, well. But we took, I remember we went sledding in this big hill. It was snowing, and that was exciting because we didn't have much snow here. I remember one snow in Wilmington. But I never will forget. They were so strict about everything. But they would pile us on top of each other to go down this sled. And I thought, well, that is mighty intimate for people that are so strict about everything else. But it turned - I found out much later that the family, the Browns, had picked him out for their daughter. They were sort of promoting that relationship. So for a while that broke up a happy relationship with my good friend. But I came on home and I didn't think I would ever hear from him. But in about two years he just suddenly appeared on the horizon, and said he was getting ready to go to India. And he just wanted to come see me 'cause he'd been thinking about me a lot. So we started - things got - progressed between us, but he went on to India on a steamer, on a merchant, merchant steamer. And I heard from him there. And I remember he would send these missionary letters back, but I would type 'em and put illustrations on 'em, and send 'em out. And after a while he said, "Is that my letter to the people or your letter?" So I cooled off from that.

Q: These were artists, or art?

Ann Perkins: They - art, little drawings and things.

Q: So you had an artistic bent even then.

Ann Perkins: Yes. In fact, I should have said that Mother had a good friend, Helen McCarl, who lived on the sound. And she was an artist, a really good artist. And Mother gathered together about eight of us to take art lessons from Helen. At - we had a - at that time at 1 Church Street, we had a charming little gazebo. Of course, I didn't know it was charming. I thought everybody had them, that was on the side yard overlooking the river. So that is where we would go up there and do our drawing lessons. And Caroline was quite good, my older sister. And I enjoyed it. I loved it, but the thing that I remember most that I was doing something that I liked very much. And she wanted me to finish it up another way, and I didn't want to. But I went ahead and did it. But after she went home that day, I got the scissors and cut off the part I didn't like. And she was not amused, I can tell you. But I remember. But also, when I was in high school, my grandmother, Jessie Harper, had moved to Baltimore to live with family there. And we'd take turns going up in the summer. So I went up for the four summers of my high school year, years. She sent me to Maryland Institute of Art to take lettering and poster design. And I loved it, and met some really nice people, and just, she did that to keep me from getting homesick and wanting to go home, 'cause there was nobody else to play for - with except kind of a little pesky cousin, who was much younger. So that was really that set me to making posters and things, which I did all through college for everything. And then years later, when I got the job as staff artist at the library in Richmond, that's what I did for the eight branches.

Q: You made posters?

Ann Perkins: Posters and window exhibits and book displays with signs, and I had a printing machine. But that was all much later. But I married and went to Richmond. My husband graduated from Union Seminary with a doctorate in theology. And we had one church assignment out of Richmond. That was Blackstone, Virginia. And those people spoiled us to death, you know, always bringing us food, which I needed like a hole in the head. But I had a son. My first child was a son. And we had told him, I remember so clearly, they spoiled him. But when we would go to their houses, he was always expecting to be fed. And we told him he just could not do that. That was rude, and rude, very rude. And I remember one afternoon, at this nice lady's house, he was very good. He was very quiet, but then after we had been there about a half-hour, he said, "I certainly would like to swallow something." And she brought on the food for him. But - and then I had my daughter four years later. They were four years apart. And we - but then we moved back to a suburb of Richmond, and after that, after being there for eight years, moved into town with my husband, Richard Perkins, went into consulting work for the church. He did not have a congregation, but he was - what they were doing was showing you how to get the maximum use out of a staff, you know, and how to - I'm sure there are people that do this all the time. While he was there he got very interested in the sensitivity movement, which was going everywhere at that time. And, you know, you were supposed to tell all and look deep into each other's soul and eyes. And that was the thing. Finally he said he felt like he needed to go find himself. So he left. The children were twelve and sixteen. So that was a major bump in my road. But I had started working at the library part time before then, and my boss said, told me I could work full time. So there was plenty to do. And that really saved my life. It helped to have something you had to get up for and go. And then my boss let me go back to school. I had had the three years of academic work, but I went to Virginia Commonwealth University in my, in my late 50s, and got a degree in painting and print making.

Q: And that was the first time that you had studied art - ?

Ann Perkins: Since, since Baltimore years. Yeah. I had a few art classes at Peace, and some at Agnes Scott, but nothing.

Q: But they were not considered professional, would you say, or you just - ?

Ann Perkins: No.

Q: Did you keep up your artwork between, in the interim?

Ann Perkins: Yes. I did all sorts of freelance work for the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, which was stationed in Richmond at the time. I did it even before I moved to Richmond. I had been doing that, and I would - and that was nice because I could pick up pocket money doing that. So I kept, of course, some of the things like old sermons. You are ashamed of them when you see them. But at the time it helped me get some pieces of furniture for the house, and so forth. But -

Q: Tell us what that job entailed as art director for a library, or a series of libraries?

Ann Perkins: What they called it at the time I got the job, was Staff Artist.

Q: Staff Artist.

Ann Perkins: And I would, there were several large places, windows, you know, display windows. And I had to keep books and posters and material in those. Then we had, besides the main library where I had my workroom, we had eight branches and a bookmobile. And I made all the signs for them.

Q: That was a big job.

Ann Perkins: Well, it was a fun job, though. And I could go out to the branches and get their orders for what they needed. And how to - when I first went there, we had a print machine that you set everything typed by hand. I will tell you, when the computer came along, I thought the kingdom had come. But, you know, you would have to pool that stuff, so one day a week I printed signs most of the day. And then we used a lot of the commercial library posters that came out of the big book companies, and made all the inner-library signs, you know, do not do this, that, and the other.

Q: What was the average age of the student in your class at the university? You said you were fifty-eight when you graduated.

Ann Perkins: They were college, you know, freshmen. But I loved 'em.

Q: Sure.

Ann Perkins: And they are just, you know, they make you look at everything with fresh eyes, and they were so reckless in their conversation. Scare the daylights out of you. But I also had to take some lecture classes, and I never will forget seeing a film by Andy Warhol that nearly blew me off.

Q: Sure.

Ann Perkins: And he is going to be featured on PBS tonight. I want to see if he still is rascally, 'cause he is long gone, I think. But I met a lot of women my age, and in fact, I met about seven of 'em that we all became good friends. And after we all graduated, we were all in the arts, somewhere in art education. We started a group called, Lord have mercy, where is my brain? "University Painters," and we would have shows around town in different places.

Q: This was the late 1970s?

Ann Perkins: I graduated finally in '84, so it was in the '80s. But before I, even well before that, part of my job at the library was to line up art exhibits for the different art groups in town. We had two galleries and then eventually three. So there was that. And we'd had some shows in the branches, but I would line those up and they would take care of it. I did not have to hang the shows, but I had to get all the information, write the news releases, and so forth, for those. And I loved that because they would, I got to meet all the artists.

Q: So they were in all mediums, not just - ?

Ann Perkins: They were all mediums, primarily, some sculpture, but primarily painting. And we had, we had about five big art organizations. I eventually, after graduation, joined the Richmond Artists Association. And then after I retired, I had my first show at the library. So, you know, I never wanted to have one before then, 'cause I thought it was a conflict of interest. But I had two before I left there. And the second one, about the time of the second one, I had my children, my grandchildren had been born, and they had been coming to Richmond for a month. Their father is French, and they live in France. And the French know how to give good vacations. They give you a month, even when you just started. So they would come to me for a month, and I would send the children, the boy and the girl, that were - when they became six and eight, I started sending them to children's art classes in Richmond. They had some really wonderful classes for them. And in that last show I had at the library, they put in two of their pieces. And I can remember my little ten-year-old granddaughter saying to her brother, "Thirteen people asked me about my painting. Did anybody ask about yours?"

Q: Is he a musician, as well, your grandson?

Ann Perkins: Huh?

Q: Is he in music, as well?

Ann Perkins: Yes. He's into drums now.

Q: That's what I thought.

Ann Perkins: And he loves music, so he is not painting as much. But he did some beautiful paintings. And part of it was because I found a wonderful teacher there for him, a girl named Phyllis Bittle. She had been married to a Episcopal minister, and he went off with an acupuncturist, and we were all hoping she'd needle him to death. But anyhow, she and I became buddies. But she was a loose canon, and a wonderful teacher. Some of the psychiatrists in Richmond would send their teenage clients to her, and she would teach them how to paint, because she could move into their frame of reference, you know.

Q: Art therapy.

Ann Perkins: And do this art therapy for her. But my grandson-in-law took from her, and he had never painted, and the two children. And my daughter took sculpture from one of the teachers at, one of the graduate students at VCU. So they have been very interested in art ever since. And the granddaughter is still taking classes in France on Saturdays. They start next month.

Q: Now, she had some paintings that were exhibited along with yours. Did she not?

Ann Perkins: Yes. She had a couple of them.

Q: And she is only fourteen, is that it?

Ann Perkins: She just turned fourteen.

Q: Mm-hmm. And that was this summer.

Ann Perkins: Yes.

Q: So critique your granddaughter, besides the fact you are her grandmother. Is she good? Will she be good?

Ann Perkins: Well, I love one of the paintings, the big abstract one that she did I thought was very good. The other ones, you know, somebody with more knowledge of teaching and looking at things might think it was just as good. But that was my, the abstract was my preference. And her mother, who is now a clinical psychologist in France, has that in her office, and -

Q: The abstract?

Ann Perkins: The abstract.

Q: Mm-hmm. I would imagine.

Ann Perkins: And she says her clients relate to that. She also has - they have about twelve or fifteen of my paintings, so she's put some of them in her office, her waiting room in the office.

Q: Do you paint with your granddaughter at times, the two of you?

Ann Perkins: We did. This summer we did some. She did primarily drawing, 'cause I couldn't find any real classes to send them to. I signed them up for Racine last summer, but it turned out that it was just little kids, about ten years old. And they were, at that time, thirteen and fifteen. And they are both very tall. And my grandson said, "Grandma, these people are midgets." And he didn't, you know, they felt like they were with babies. So I took them out of that. And we - I sent them to the Cameron Museum to take pottery with the girl whose name I cannot remember, but she's a wonderful potter and has work in that gift shop there, and studied with Hiroshi.

Q: Hiroshi, yeah.

Ann Perkins: Yeah. And highly recommended him. But the two children and my daughter took the pottery class with her. And I could call and tell you what her name is.

Q: That's all right.

Ann Perkins: Just can't remember it now.

Q: Are you still painting?

Ann Perkins: Yes.

Q: Do you paint at home, or do you go someplace?

Ann Perkins: My sister Caroline has a porch off her dining room that's glassed in on two sides. And it's enclosed, totally. And I paint there. It's almost the size of the studio I had in my home in Richmond, which was glassed on three sides. But it is wonderful. So she is just four blocks away, so I do large paintings there. But I have painted small things in my kitchen. The light at the Chateau Terrace kitchen is great, and so little things is fine. But larger things, no. So.

Q: What do you enjoy doing most as far as the painting? Any scenes or people, or inanimate projects, or - ?

Ann Perkins: Well, I did paintings of my children and drawings of my children, but I am not a portrait painter, and I just want to clear that, 'cause that's the first question people ask you. The postman wanted me to paint his six-month-old child. And I said I just don't do portraits, and that child would be looking different time I finished. But I do landscapes, and still lifes, and (inaudible).

Q: Have you become involved with any of the art community here? There is so much of it.

Ann Perkins: Yes. There is. And having had a little niche for myself in Richmond, it has been kind of tricky to move into another arena totally, and sort of try to worm yourself into it. But the first summer I was here, the lady at the gift shop at the Cameron Center, I took her some transparencies of my work. And she let me have a show that first summer in the gift shop. And then the new director came and said that's against the law, because of their tax status. They are not supposed to sell local artists' work, or they'll lose their tax - I don't understand, but anyhow. But I was there for two and a half months, and that was a help, because they got out of my closets and my children had a place to hang their clothes while they were visiting me. And then the time in-between, I have just started painting again because I spent the next several months trying to self-destruct. I had three eye surgeries, and fell and fractured my pelvis in several places. So five months went by with therapy and getting over those things. But I am back at it now, and I just finished painting a small painting of a house on Oleander and Magnolia, right where my sister lives, a little pink house. I don't know if you have ever noticed it. But it belongs to Farrell and Becky Shuford. And they were so wonderful taking my children sailing this summer, I just wanted to do something for them. And that house reminds me a lot of the houses in France. And I've gone to France about eight or nine times to visit, primarily to visit the children. People always want to know, think you are being a tourist, but you're not. You're just enjoying your family. And I love the little village, the little area.

Q: Where are they located? What part, where are they located in France?

Ann Perkins: They lived in a suburb of Paris called St-Germain-en-Laye. And it's, it has a big chateau there that's now a museum, and it belonged to Maurice Denis, the French painter. And it's a wonderful museum. Before they moved recently, I could walk over there. I haven't found my way back there on my last visit. I did not go this April because I was still in therapy for the accident. But I will go. I usually go in April. The children are off from school two weeks, and it's just a good time. And the family takes off sometimes and we go on trips.

Q: When you paint do you find that you are relaxed?

Ann Perkins: It's wonderful. It's like -

Q: You lose yourself in it.

Ann Perkins: It's like a form of meditation almost. You just, you lose track of time. You just kind of move into another world. And it's a good, it's a wonderful friend when you're trying to get over something, you know. My son has died. He had muscular dystrophy. And I know after that, it was so helpful to get back into the painting through the grieving process. And it saved my life after my divorce. That's when I went back to school and it got my mind on something else.

Q: Can you tell a little bit about from your, your point of view, you have really lived here during many evolutions.

Ann Perkins: Yes.

Q: But you left for a while, and then you came back. And now you are here to stay, I gather.

Ann Perkins: Yes.

Q: I hope.

Ann Perkins: I hope so.

Q: What are your impressions of the changes in Wilmington, or have you seen them? Do you approve of them? What do you look for down the line?

Ann Perkins: Every summer I would come home, and I would bring - when the children started coming from France, I would rent a cottage and we would come here for at least a week. And that way we could see cousins and relatives. So I've had a, you know, an ongoing look at that. I know the traffic on Oleander is for the quick and the dead now, and it's not, you know, it was very quiet. And that whole west, is it west, east of Forest Hill. I'm not in Richmond now. Forest Hills was a beautiful section, and it still is. But so many houses have grown up. It's just incredible. So many -

Q: What do you think about all the people moving in here, and the city taking on a completely different flavor than what you knew and enjoyed?

Ann Perkins: Well, we used to, you know, I grew up at a time when we didn't always have a car, and I always walked to work and walked home for lunch. But now it's almost impossible to walk to places you want to go without getting killed by a car. I'm living in Chateau Terrace now, and I'm lucky to have a light, a traffic light, at the end of that place. But I don't know. I can't say any real negative things. I keep hearing about problems that the city has, but I'm not that aware. And I'm not really knowledgeable about the people that are coming up to be voted on. So I need to talk to my sister. Last time when we voted for something, they had little sketches of each ones in the newspaper with their goals and ideas. So that was helpful. But I - in Richmond, I lived on a block where everybody were ardent Democrats, which was nice. But the local newspaper was pro-Republican to the max, and so it was interesting when we had the election with Kerry and Bush. I mean, Kerry wasn't God's gift to the world, but couldn't have been any worse. I'm not a Bush person. Excuse me, Lord (laughing).

Q: That's all right.

Ann Perkins: I just. And also, I was there during the time George Allen was Governor. I wasn't keen on him. So I'm glad he keeps putting his foot in his mouth.

Q: And he has been lately.

Ann Perkins: On this - the thought of him being president gives me a chill. But the current governor of Virginia lived two blocks from me, and he came to neighborhood things. Tim Kaine, he was delightful, just a old shoe type, just nothing put on about him. And he married the daughter of Governor Holden, who had been the governor several years before. And he and his family attended Second Presbyterian Church where I was a member.

Q: Can you compare a way of life in Richmond, as - aside from the fact that Richmond is a larger city. But just an everyday way of life, living there compared to here. You've had - fifty - how many years did you live there?

Ann Perkins: I was gone for fifty-three years.

Q: And then you grew up here and you've returned here. So can you tell us about that, how you feel about this, or have you enjoyed one culture over the other, because Virgin - Raleigh - excuse me, Richmond, definitely has its own flavor.

Ann Perkins: It does. And, you know, the thing about Richmond, the only really negative thing, there were some people there, you know, that thought if you hadn't been born there -

Q: Well, the First Families of Virginia.

Ann Perkins: First Families of Virginians could be pretty arrogant. But they had wonderful - I lived about six or seven blocks from the museum, the Virginia Museum. And the thing I miss most, though, were my art friends. And they came, my best art friends, came from my going back to school. And we would get together frequently and I, after I graduated, one of the things I started, was to get together a group of ten artists who would meet on a monthly basis, bring work they were doing, and we would hire one of the professors from VCU, the art school, because they have a splendid art school, to come and discuss our work. And then we would, you know, discuss each other. And I was the facilitator for that for twenty years, and that's one thing I do miss, 'cause we all, you know, you feed on other people's work and ideas, as well as having the friendships. And I also, at that time, I lived on the north side just two blocks from the Seminary, the Union Seminary and Presbyterian School. And I lived in what had been an experiment by one of the first families of Richmond. There were twenty houses on an area of two blocks with a play area inside, a tennis court, and garages. And they called it Laburnum Court. And it wasn't fancy like these gated communities, but they - all of the houses were craft houses that had been built - they started building them in 1919 and 1920. So all of the floor plans were the same, but the exteriors were different. So you'd think - there were about four exteriors. But it was a wonderful feeling of almost family ties with everybody on that square. Our children grew up together and played together. And I lived in a house. I was just the third owner of the house. And everybody, you know, we made a mistake, I think, because we would get a name attached to one of the houses, and even though two other families had lived there since, we always called it by the original family name.

Q: Has anybody in your family accused you of adopting a Virginia accent, a Richmond accent, because you say hause, and that's what they - house.

Ann Perkins: House. House?

Q: No. Hause.

Ann Perkins: No. I don't know. I guess.

Q: I get a bit of it here and there. And having lived there for so long, it would be normal to do that.

Ann Perkins: You know, I've been totally unaware of -

Q: Well, then no one has said anything to you.

Ann Perkins: No. No.

Q: You said some of your best friends were artists you met in school, and y'all fed off each other. Where do you get your inspiration or our ideas here for paintings?

Ann Perkins: Well, you know, probably from - I haven't really gotten to painting Wilmington scenes. But every time I went to France, I would fill up scrapbooks with drawings of things I saw there. And it's really a beautiful country, you know. Bush doesn't like French fries, but so be it. I have an idea about them, but I've got to start doing that here, because several people have said why don't you paint Wilmington some? But I would do things from these sketches, or I'd take little tiny postcard-sized things and make sketches in color that, to give me an idea of the color to make the larger paintings. But I also get things like art magazines, Art and Antiques, and Art in America, just feed off of stuff there.

Q: Didn't you have some homes that you'd painted on exhibit, Wilmington houses on exhibit recently? Didn't I see some?

Ann Perkins: I had painted a couple of houses on 1 Church, in Church Street, the Bellamy house where Haywood and Ara Bellamy lived. And the house next door to them. Well, Mother owned the house next door to number one also. And then the house next to, I had painted four houses. So. But I never really painted number one. I did some, some prints of it. When I was at, at - you know, when I was at Virginia Commonwealth University, I had to take print making, which I enjoyed. And I did nearly all family-related things on that.

Q: Do you have plans for another exhibit, Ann, or anything, anything to do with, at the museums, or - ?

Ann Perkins: Not here. I'm going up the end of November to something that a neighbor and I started ages ago. We would have open studio. I did that on my own a couple of years. It was something the Art's Council in Richmond sponsored. And then they said they would advertise whose studio would be open, and people would come on a Sunday afternoon primarily, and see the paintings. So I did that on my own for a couple of years, and then a young family moved in across the street, and she was an illustrator who had graduated from VCU, and then two doors down, a watercolorist. So we decided we would have a street open house. And down at the other corner was a woman who was very high in education, and she painted wooden bowls and chairs and everything, just wonderful stuff. So we started something called Open Studio, and we did that for eighteen years. And that's one of the best sales. Each of us asked two or three people to come in with us, and we opened our homes. And so last year my young neighbor from across the street said if you will come join us, you can stay with me and my sister-in-law will drive me up, because I am a little wary of doing that by myself now. We went up. It was affirming and very, you know, 'cause I had been here a year and nothing had happened.

Q: So are you going to do that again?

Ann Perkins: So I am going to do it again.

Q: Could you start something like that here? Do you know enough people you could do that here?

Ann Perkins: I've tried to. They were trying to start in the Rich - in the Wilmington Art Association. And only three people other than myself signed up, and the problem for me is I don't know who is really good enough to draw people to come, you know. I got professors I had had in school, and we would ask each one to do it for two years so that we would really get - and then switch to get another point of view. But one of the girls who is quite good is a watercolorist in the Wilmington Artists, said that she would do it. And she is a good watercolorist. But there was just not any interest in that. The Wilmington galleries had to close because the roof leaked.

Q: Right.

Ann Perkins: From the water collecting.

Q: They had a terrible time.

Ann Perkins: So they're talking about moving now. I had thought about trying to join that, at least sell posters and prints there, but every time they have had a drive to take in new members, I have either gotten very sick or I have fallen and killed myself. And then this time, the rains came, so I'm beginning to think the elements are telling me that's not your path. I don't know.

Q: Do you paint with watercolors or oils?

Ann Perkins: Never with watercolor. It seems like everybody down here is into watercolor. And it's - it's a very hard medium. I don't know if I could master it. But I painted in gouache for years, then moved into oil. Of course, when I was at VCU, I had to paint in oil. And they made us paint large. But when I started to have some eye problems, I switched to acrylics, which I love because they're very immediate. You can put it down and then you don't have to wait three days for it to dry if you rub it out or something. And you can. So it's like -

Q: What style of art do you really like the best, or - ?

Ann Perkins: I remember one of my, several of my professors told me early on, this is before my daughter ever went to college. I spent a summer in Nice. They told me my work was very French. And I mean, that was totally unconscious. I was not aware. They told me I was a colorist, and my work was very French. And then my daughter goes to France and marries a man. That's kind of eerie.

Q: Well, are you - would you say your work, from what I've seen, was not really impressionist, just - but it's alive.

Ann Perkins: It's, it's sort of a post-impressionist. And I love the man whose works were stolen, Edvard Munch?

Q: Oh, yeah.

Ann Perkins: He did The Scream.

Q: Yeah.

Ann Perkins: I have an image of The Scream on my computer, because that's how I feel every time I try to make it work. But I loved his work. It was so kind of dark, emotional stuff. But I love van Gogh's work. It has got so much energy in it. Matisse and Bernard. And so I do love the impressionists.

Q: The impressionist painters. Yeah. Do you like the French painters?

Ann Perkins: I love the French painters.

Q: Is there any American artist that you have found or seen?

Ann Perkins: Fairfield Porter. And we had an artist from Richmond named Nell Blanche. She is probably not as well known here, but she went to New York and made it, really made it. And I love her work. And she has died now. She was a student at VCU and then she went to New York, went to Europe and came down with polio at the time, you know. Well, you don't remember. You all are too young. But she came home in a tank, you know. But began, learned to paint with her left hand and just marvelous colorful stuff. So Richmond is very proud of her.

Q: Sure.

Ann Perkins: And I've always admired her work. In fact, I had - one of the young students talked me into buying a - no, he wasn't a young student. He had finished at VCU. But he asked me if I'd buy a book. He was in debt. So I, the grandmother instinct, I bought this book of hers with her etchings in it for $300. And when I left Richmond, I was having to get rid of so much stuff, so I gave it to the library at VCU. It's now worth, it was worth $1200 at that time.

Q: Did they thank you?

Ann Perkins: Yeah, they thanked me for it. And I'm so glad they have it, 'cause I have a graph - you know, a regular printed book with her color oil paintings in that, that I can look at. I don't need to have the originals. And then there was a guy named Warren Brant, whose work I like, very colorful. And I did like Edward Hopper a lot till I found out he was such a chauvinist with his wife.

Q: Oh, well.

Ann Perkins: You have to overlook those things. But -

Q: Yes. He is interesting.

Ann Perkins: With my history I'm sensitive to that. So. But his work is nice. I like it. It is very colorful. And I like, you know, I like Jackson Pollock's things.

Q: So you do like sort of the open and outburst type of work.

Ann Perkins: Yeah. Things that have got a little energy in them.

Q: We have just a few minutes left, and is there anything that you could say. Now, pretend like people are going to be students, and other people will be looking at this to, not only for you as an artist, but the history of this south and a woman of your years. Is there anything that you feel, that a lesson that you have learned, or something you've passed on to your own daughter, your granddaughter, or other students, if you were teaching a class, that you have learned in these years, and doing what you have done?

Ann Perkins: One of the main things I learned that every woman, no matter how idyllic and happy she is, needs to have a skill that she can earn her own living. 'Course I grew up in the time when most women did just stay home and look after their children. And I did that for twelve years. I was freelancing, but I stayed home while my children were, until they got in third grade. My daughter was in third grade. And I think it's crucial that you be able to support yourself. And for young artists, you have got to have something to put bread on the table. You can't depend on being discovered and sell big, expensive paintings. So I think that is important, that you learn to do something and hopefully it can be more exciting than waiting tables, which a lot of 'em do. But.

Q: Would you say that pretty much you have accomplished that, so that you feel satisfied within yourself?

Ann Perkins: I feel good. You know, I worked for - I had enough Social Security quarters to get a good Social Security. And I have a pension from the city of Richmond. And after my divorce, my husband, I must hasten to say that he was good about sending the money. He paid alimony. And after my children were out of college, I saved it, so because I knew I would not get part of his pension. So you have to be realistic about the future.

Q: But you have a family here, and aren't you fortunate that you have so many brothers.

Ann Perkins: I have five siblings, and they all rallied to, to my support.

Q: So you're home again.

Ann Perkins: Yes. So I've come home again.

Q: Ann, it's been wonderful talking to you.

Ann Perkins: Thank you.

Q: And come back to see us again. And anytime you have something that you'd like to hang up, I'm sure we would love to do it for you. And we'll be watching your career.

Ann Perkins: Thank you. Some days I feel like it's petering out, you know, 'cause I don't have the energy to paint four or five hours at a stretch anymore.

Q: Well, you have got to rest up a little bit.

Ann Perkins: Yeah. I have to take a nap in between paintings. But I appreciate y'all inviting me here. I feel very warm toward Wilmington.

Q: Good.

Ann Perkins: And one of my brothers has always sent me the State magazine, so I wouldn't forget that I had tar on my tongue, or hominy grits.

Q: Thank you so much.

Ann Perkins: You're very welcome.

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