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Interview with Dick Roberts, March 5, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Dick Roberts, March 5, 2008
Date:
March 5, 2008
Description:
Interview with artist Dick Roberts, Curator of Exhibits and Design at the NC Aquarium in Kure Beach, founder and President of Acme Art Studios, and founder of the No Boundaries artists' colony.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Roberts, Dick Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  3/5/2008 Series:  Arts Length  80 minutes

Hayes: We're here today as part of our art oral history project talking to Dick Roberts. Is that correct?

Roberts: Dick Roberts.

Hayes: Is that the full name, or what do you go by?

Roberts: I guess the name I was born with is Richard Dow Roberts, Jr. I like that.

Hayes: We're going to talk extensively about the interesting things you've done with Acme Art, and your art colonies, and your own painting, and your work at the aquarium. But before we get there, you didn't come to that immediately. Where did you get started? Where did you grow up? How did you end up in Wilmington?

Roberts: That's a long convoluted trip. Actually, when I got out of high school I wanted to major in art.

Hayes: Did they have a program in your high school?

Roberts: No, when I graduated.

Hayes: Where were you coming from?

Roberts: Brevard High School. Brevard, North Carolina. It's in the mountains near Asheville, beautiful country there.

Hayes: There's a college there, isn't there?

Roberts: Brevard college, which is now a four-year school; it's a Methodist school. But I had the wanderlust. I wanted out of my small town. And so I took the book that has all of the Universities and Colleges in the country and shut my eyes and opened it, and went like that, and it came up University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida. And so my folks said, "We saved all of our lives for your college. So by damn, you're going to school." And so...

Hayes: You already knew you wanted art?

Roberts: Oh, absolutely.

Hayes: Well, how did that happen, though, if you didn't have a formal program?

Roberts: I've been making paintings since I was a little kid. One humorous-- I hope it's humorous, story is, my mother bought me this really elaborate paint-by-number set, and I took it out and painted the scene of the mountain behind the house on it with the paint they provide for the paint-by-number. Brought it in, I was very proud of this little painting. And my mother was, you know, "Well, you've ruined it." I mean, it was the paint-by-numbers. You know the snow-covered bridge or whatever it was, you know. But yeah, I've always been drawing. And I guess the fourth grade was sort of the beginning of recognition by others that I was interested in art.

Hayes: So your folks knew this too. Were they artists themselves?

Roberts: No, and they considered it frivolous and not very important. So I went to the University of Miami, but they absolutely forbade me to major in art. So I took a few courses on the sly, but my major was marine biology. And I'm not a scientist, not by any means, and I found that out very quickly. But after about three years I felt guilty about spending the money majoring in biology, and at a very good school for biology.

Hayes: I was going to say that was a world famous school.

Roberts: And it was a great three years, but I wasn't doing what I wanted to do. And so I left Miami and enrolled in Western Carolina University. And it was a very tumultuous time, and I got burned by the draft and got drafted. And I joined the Navy instead. I'm not going to go into my checkered past with the military. But needless to say, after about five years or more, maybe six, seven years, I'd been working in libraries, writing poetry, doing artsy things.

Hayes: So you didn't finish at Western?

Roberts: No.

Hayes: You were coming into art though. Is that what you were going to try?

Roberts: At that time because it was the '60s, they said that political science is the place to be because everybody was revolting and marching, as well as I was, but it really didn't mean much in the mountains of North Carolina. But anyway, after six or seven years, I went back to Western and got a BFA in painting and ceramics. And so that way I was able to formalize, at least on somebody's list.

Hayes: Was it good program?

Roberts: Yeah, I went for clay because they had an excellent crafts program at Western.

Hayes: Wow, I didn't know that.

Roberts: Clay, jewelry were big, are big. I haven't been back in so long I can't tell you what it's like now, but very good ceramics program. And also a glassblowing program with David Nichols, who's a fairly well known glassblower here in the south. Anyway, I went just so I could use the equipment. I could pay a $35 lab fee in ceramics, whatever 101, and throw as many pots, and glaze as many pots, and then fire as many pots as I wanted. It was unlimited, because many students just did the bare minimum and that was it. So I took a clay course every semester I was there just so I could fire-- make pots.

Hayes: Did you keep that up? You're known as a painter now.

Roberts: Yeah, I haven't done clay in a long time. But I did that while I was-- I would sell bowls and coffee mugs and stuff to help pay the rent because I was going back to school on my own nickel at this point. And so I worked in the library there, full-time, second shift, took full course load, usually two or three studio courses per semester, and graduated with honors which totally blew me away. I had no intention of graduating. I just wanted to throw pots. And before I knew it I had amassed so many course hours I-- the chairman said "Well, you know, you got to go."

Hayes: And they gave you credit, surely, for lots of the work you brought from Miami?

Roberts: Oh yeah.

Hayes: Only for basic stuff.

Roberts: I had everything covered three times over. I've had four semesters of French, math, all the sciences, you know, all the stuff that you would need for core curriculum.

Hayes: You were a very well-rounded person, that's what you should say.

Roberts: What I've learned is over the years, I don't think I've taken a wasted course in my life. Everything, in some way or another I've been able use it, not consciously, but realizing. You know, so it's definitely a liberal arts education. You know a little bit about everything but not a lot about anything. But the art just kept calling and that's when it got serious. And then after I graduated from Western I had an opportunity to go into a pottery with some friends or take a job as an exhibits proprietor for this Nature Museum in Charlotte.

Hayes: Nature Museum, okay.

Roberts: Charlotte, North Carolina; the Nature Museum. And I looked at both ideas: one involved hanging it with friends and making bowls and plates day after day, and essentially it's production pottery if you're going to make a living. Or I could be-- go into the museum field where no one project was the same and you learned new tools and new materials every time you do a project. Building dioramas, restoring stuffed animals, whatever it might be, and you learned just enough to do it and then move on to the next exhibit. And so I liked that a lot. And I was able to do my art on the side but it wasn't the focus. But still I had to make a living and it was a good way to go. The thing that I learned and have stuck to all these years is I don't mix the two, or I never mixed the two, the fine art, which is a personal pursuit, and making a living, which is doing art-like things for an institution.

Hayes: It's a creative job, for sure.

Roberts: Oh sure.

Hayes: Right now it's a fine art job.

Roberts: Right and ultimately you end up managing people. And then it becomes a bureaucratic type endeavor. The organization that is the Nature Museum is Science Museum of Charlotte. Out of that grew Discovery Place which is a large interactive science museum, very successful, very beautiful place. It's a great museum. It's patterned on the Exploratorium in San Francisco. But I went for a staff of seven people at the Nature Museum to a staff of, I don't know, you know 60 to 100 people at Discovery Place. And all the sudden we're in this corporate structure and working in a department with-- and I didn't like that at all. So I started fishing around for jobs. I found a job here in Wilmington actually at Fort Fisher. It was called at that time the Marine Resources Center at Fort Fisher. And they were looking for a curator of exhibits, they had a staff of seven people. It was this great facility right on the beach. In those days it was very sleepy and wonderful, you know, you swim at lunch, whatever, and build exhibits.

Hayes: What year was that?

Roberts: Nineteen-eighty-two. So I came and got to what is now the aquarium. And the Marine Resources Center became the North Carolina Aquariums, I think it was '92 or something, I don't know. I'm not good on the dates. We began to grow, slowly. I mean, when I first got there the visitation was really just local interest, maybe a few people that knew about the beach. I can remember some Februarys in the early days where nobody came to the Marine Resources Center, that's visitor. There's nobody out there. And that has grown into a very large, well respected aquarium. I would place it on a national scale. I think we're right up there with some of the other aquariums in this country that are excellent. And most of that has to do with the excellence of the staff and working together. Anyway, I had to learn as we acquired people. As we grew, I found myself doing different things other than going into the shop and building and doing what I wanted to do. And the next thing you know you're talking about contracts, and managing contracts, and farming work out to craftsmen that, you know, would do a better job than I would. Anyway, it became that. And by the time I decided to retire, which was just a week ago, I'm free for a week, now, I was working for a large corporate structure with, you know, 60 employees, right where I came from, from this other place.

Hayes: That's interesting.

Roberts: So it was...

Hayes: You didn't recognize it I take it.

Roberts: Acutely.

Hayes: What at the end was your official title?

Roberts: Other than the whole-- it never changed. I was doing the job for almost 26 years as a curator of exhibits.

Hayes: Do you think that your art training lent itself? I'm surprised they picked an artist. Sometimes they run away from artists.

Roberts: I think I was hired because of the selection pool was pretty shallow. One big credential for me was the Discovery Place thing. And everyone else that had applied to that job was local, a boat builder and things like that. I'm not putting those guys down, it's just that they wanted someone in the field.

Hayes: And also you were not a 21-year old at that point either, you were a mature person.

Roberts: Yeah, and I knew what I wanted. So it worked. But like I said, as we grew and grew and grew I found myself taking management courses, and working with people, and learning how to discipline, and coach and, you know, all the various things that a good manager needs to do. And it's all very admirable. I have a lot of respect for good managers. I just don't want to be one. I don't want to do it. Anyway, when I had the opportunity where I reached the age and the number of years where they give me full retirement in the state of North Carolina, I took it. Because...

Hayes: So often what we hear from an artist is that their day job limits completely their real art world. But you paralleled that with another world of art. So talk about that. How did you do that?

Roberts: Well, I happened to have the very good fortune of meeting really great people here in Wilmington when things were formative for me. It was a time to decide whether to get real and do art or just play at it. Because I felt like that's all I was doing, you know, making a painting in the bedroom, no studio, this kind of thing. And I met Pam Toll, Marshall Milton, another Wilmington artist, Rick Mops [ph?] there were several of us, John Peckham, Wayne Upchurch-- a photographer. Anyway, we all met each other, Gayle Tustin was part of this little group, and we all, as Pam is fond of saying, "Fell in love with each other." It was just this wonderful thing. And we were doing life drawing together, we were hanging out, we were talking about art all of the time, and that was, you know, of course after work and weekends. And out of that group, grew a desire to have a building, where we could have our own studios, and this was what I mean about getting real. So we started looking around and we found this place Acme Art. It was an old carpet warehouse that some really crude-thinking corporate type person plopped down in the middle of an old beautiful neighborhood, this ugly brick building.

Hayes: It's in a residential neighborhood.

Roberts: Yeah, and it was for carpet. So they had semis coming in and out of here all of the time.

Hayes: It was a warehouse?

Roberts: It was a warehouse.

Hayes: There was no retail coming out of it, just pick carpet?

Roberts: No, just the warehouse. The neighborhood was really run down but it's the old Brooklyn neighborhood. And the houses, you know, some were elegant, a lot when we got here were rundown.

Hayes: Is this the '80s again?

Roberts: Let's see we've been here 15 years, so whatever that is.

Hayes: In '93.

Roberts: Yeah, '92,'93 is when we bought the building. Well, decided to buy the building. And we had to like really get real about organizing ourselves into a legal entity, which meant we had to incorporate in some way so we could all put our names on the mortgage.

Hayes: And there's no model for you in Wilmington at that time is there? You're the first to do this?

Roberts: No, model at all. And what happened we started looking it at other places and what they did. Because in '92 everyone just went out for public money. Form a non-profit, get a grant, you know, that kind of thing. And also the Mapplethorpe thing was big in the news at that time, where he was getting a lot of criticism from using the National Endowment for the Arts money for what many people consider sacrilegious photographs. The Piss Christ, I think was the big one. And so we looked at all of that and we looked at art space in Raleigh, there is another co-op-type concern in Richmond, I think it was.

Hayes: There's not many.

Roberts: Well, we looked around and they were all set up as non-profits and they-- we looked at art space and they had spent so much money remodeling the building that they had to charge-- their overhead was already too high. So they had to charge large amounts of money for their studios. And they had stipulations, at least at that point I don't know what they are doing now, that if you rented a studio from Art Space not only did you pay a high rent you got a little cubicle type studio. And you had to buy contracts, spend "X" amount of time a week in your studio painting.

Hayes: You had to be there?

Roberts: Artist on the rocks. So people could come through because it was like a little mall. And they had gallery space or two and there were all these studios. And it was a great-- I mean, it was a good idea for that but its not some thing we wanted to do. So we finally decided to get ourselves together as-- just incorporate as a for-profit corporation, and we will generate money by renting studios to other-- to ourselves in the beginning, and to other artists. And the mission of Art Acme in the beginning was to have studios for ourselves, to provide safe affordable studios to other artists in town, and to create an environment that would foster an artist community here in Wilmington. And we've done all those things. And our rents are still notoriously low. We've never really made any money in 15 years other than paying the mortgage and utilities. We had to put a roof on the building and various things.

Hayes: Did each person have to create their own space with walls and so forth?

Roberts: Yeah, the five partners, there were five partners at the time we all have fairly substantial studios, mine's about 1000 square feet, Pam and Marshall about the same square footage. And then we have maybe 18, 20 other artists here in the complex. We had two buildings, and they're in smaller studios. And that's how we generate the rent. In all that time we've never advertised for a studio, it just gets filled.

Hayes: Word of mouth.

Roberts: Yeah.

Hayes: Do you get some students occasionally?

Roberts: Occasionally.

Hayes: And right now you've got some ladies from Australia? Is that where they are from?

Roberts: Yeah.

Hayes: That's kind of fascinating. Are they're here on a tour with their husbands?

Roberts: Yeah, and so they wanted a place to work, so they've rented a studio. Right now we're full.

Hayes: So it's about 25 at the max?

Roberts: Thereabouts. I lose track, but that's about right. Every studio's full and most everyone here is-- I would say everyone here is serious. In the early days that wasn't the case. And we would rent to whomever. They had to be artists. You know, we didn't want to rent to somebody that wanted to storage U-Haul trailer in here or something, you know, that kind of thing. There could be a great soap opera, I think, associated with the history of Acme Art. We've had romances. I think most of us have had to live here at one point due to divorce. This is a dark comment, we've even had suicide here.

Hayes: Ouch. Well, you've had life.

Roberts: Yeah, and so it's a cross-section of everything.

Hayes: You wanted it to be a community, right?

Roberts: Well, that comes with the territory.

Hayes: It isn't the corporate thing you were talking about before.

Roberts: No, you got three artists. Right now its Pam and Marshall and I, we have just silent partners. And we run the show. And we just basically have a monthly meeting, and we really don't manage anything. Michael Van Hout is-- we knock off some rent for him, pay him to kind of be the overseer, to manage, make sure we have toilet paper and lights in the fixtures.

Hayes: Probably because he's here all the time.

Roberts: Yeah, that was the reason. Michael's in his studio five days a week. And I'll be here now, too.

Hayes: Well, that's good.

Roberts: But we've never really focused on growing, you know, the Juggernaut Business of Acme Art. We really haven't. We've focused on making art and doing what we-- further our own art careers.

Hayes: Well, you should too. You've had a lot of shows and events here too.

Roberts: Yeah.

Hayes: Was that really on the ways of...

Roberts: Yeah, in fact, the group I was telling you about before, before we built the building, we had a what we call the "Full Moon Show," which was at that time we didn't have a building. And Caffe Phoenix allowed us to have the Full Moon Show in their building, upstairs and in the restaurant and we invited any artist in town to bring one piece of art on jewelry and would hag it. And we had people playing music, and people reading poetry, and big opening for the event and the whole town came out. And so we did it again, oh, maybe six, eight months later, still no building at this point. It was the second Full Moon Show and this time we went to Caffe Phoenix and all the way down to the Ice House, which is no longer, of course, but the Ice House was a venue for music on the river which was a wonderful thing. And we had luminaries in bags that you followed the path from one to the other and art everywhere. And then when we got the building we had the third Full Moon Show here, and the place was packed. And oh, we more than had a problem with low turn out. Even at that time the neighborhood was pretty damn scared. You know, we had like junior leaguers clutching their purses as they came from the car. With good reason, yeah, it was good reason. (laughs)

Hayes: Your sense now is that it's a very nice neighborhood?

Roberts: Well, all of Fourth Street's becoming gentrified, all this construction's going up, their building apartment buildings and various things. Every house on the block now has either been sold or renovated. So no more crack houses, no more real problem now. The city built the bridge over the...

Hayes: Fifth street is that the...

Roberts: Yeah, it's over the railroad right here. It use to be a cul-de-sac.

Hayes: Yeah, and then you couldn't get across, right?

Roberts: Yeah, which we liked because it was quiet. But now we have through-traffic. But that's good and bad. So I like it.

Hayes: It's easier to have people find you now, right?

Roberts: They could find use, plus people are more willing to put money into this neighborhood because they can get here.

Hayes: Oh, I see, other people.

Roberts: Yeah, so we've grown and gotten more serious as a group, I guess, just by virtue of the fact that the people that have studios here are mature. I don't know what the mean age is around here, but I bet it's in the high 40s.

Hayes: Maybe higher.

Roberts: Maybe higher, yeah. And there are people here...

Hayes: And you've got a few recent ones who are retirees.

Roberts: Yeah.

Hayes: And they're loners.

Roberts: Yeah, I mean, we're all old farts here.

Hayes: There's a few younger ones.

Roberts: But it really means that people are serious.

Hayes: So looking back it was one of the great things you did then for yourself, for your own art?

Roberts: Oh God, yeah. It was a base. It was a place to be and do it. And I still come here.

Hayes: I looked behind you, panning up to this picture. Hang on just a second.

Roberts: Sure. What it's trying to tell me?

Hayes: Okay, I'm back. I'm trying to take a picture. And whoever is watching this that was my fault. I was looking behind you and we're only looking at half of the picture in here. You work large. So in a sense, you know, you talked bedroom studio. For an artist that works large, where are you going to go?

Roberts: Well, I started working large when I got here.

Hayes: What was in you, was large.

Roberts: Yeah, I had done large painting before but it was always a real hassle. And I've got room. And when I come here-- even from day one when we bought the building 15 years ago, I come through the door, I smell the smell of maybe linseed oil, oil paint, the metal that the sculptors are burning, whatever, the world just falls away, and I'm here. And this is more or less my temple, for lack of another word.

Hayes: Did you have to put the skylight in?

Roberts: We did that, oh, maybe six or seven years into...

Hayes: It really changes it.

Roberts: Well, it went from a dungeon, bat cave, to something nice and bright. And so we water our plants over here, too, because of the skylight.

Hayes: That's a good idea.

Roberts: But yeah, Especially when I was working I would come-- made a pact with myself early on and it was-- this came out of that group too, the beginning group. And one of the things we said to ourselves was "Do something for your art everyday."

Hayes: Really, oh, that's a challenge.

Roberts: Whether it's sweeping the floor, buying art supplies, actually working, whatever it is, but do something to support your art everyday. And most of us still do that. And I would come here, and no matter what happened at work, who I was upset with, or what didn't arrive, all of that kind of stuff that goes on at work, it just falls away. And I'm here, it's quiet, it's wonderful. And you just get-- you go another place and work. And I think the only other thing I would say to that because it is that special to me, is, I've never worked, you know, under the influence of alcohol, or drugs or anything like that. I think that's an absolute cop out. I mean, my talent is limited enough. I don't want to deaden my senses. I just throw that in, because you are archiving this thing, and that is a very-- I...

Hayes: Did you see that? Is that something that is commonly found in the art community?

Roberts: No, it's not a chronic problem, but I do meet young artists from time to time, and that is a mindset sometimes, and it's a crutch. It takes you away from what you need to be doing. You know, so you paint all day, and then go out and have fun.

Hayes: The art community was fairly undeveloped when you got started in this. What were your methods for selling your work? Did you want to sell it? You had a different job, but you still wanted validation for selling?

Roberts: Well, of course. Of course sales-- and that's a whole other endeavor for making art. It's a whole other thing, and I would rather somebody else handle it. I don't want to be out there saying things, buy my painting.

Hayes: So you use a gallery?

Roberts: Yes. Galleries were the only real outlet that we had at that point.

Hayes: Let's talk a little bit about your work. Have you always been an abstract painter?

Roberts: For the most part.

Hayes: You use mainly oil on canvas?

Roberts: Yes, oil, but I get a lot of mixed media training.

Hayes: What are some other medias that you use?

Roberts: Oils, sand, I might do underpaintings in acrylic, oil.

Hayes: Your works are fairly large?

Roberts: Large, sometimes metal.

Hayes: So some of the techniques that other people have used to make money didn't lend themselves to you? You're not going to go in the theatre circuit, or the art circuit?

Roberts: I don't like that.

Hayes: Now with the Giclee, you could at least consider that. But up until recently you weren't able to do a serious reproduction, right?

Roberts: For what I do, the Giclee thing is something-- I think it's appropriate, and a great tool for something that you want to make-- maybe, somebody that paints realistically, and very delicate-- oh, that's the wrong-- not delicate. They would look good as a print, and you want to market these things that way. I have a lot of texture in my paintings. They're large. And the scale of a painting, I think, is just as important. Sometimes it's the reason for the-- you know, provides more of an environment than the same painting on something this big, or poster size.

Hayes: It becomes a dominant part of whatever space it's in. What's a typical size for your work?

Roberts: These are 48 by 46 inches, and that's not bad.

Hayes: Have you done any bigger than that too?

Roberts: Yes. There's one against the wall over there that's like four feet by eight feet. They get a little awkward to haul around. My truck only has 48 inch-- I can't carry it, yeah. But I don't like to-- for me, I don't like the Giclee print idea. There were some people in town that were pushing these things.

Hayes: You mentioned the texture, so you're saying that if I came up to the side of your picture, it has dimensionality besides the flatness.

Roberts: Yes, and I like to juxtapose textures. Maybe part of the painting would be rubbed thin all the way to the canvas, and you see the threads, and some might have, you know, a quarter-of-an-inch of paint on it, right next to it.

Hayes: Were you emulating, or admiring, or coming from any particular school as you have evolved?

Roberts: I like the freedom of the New York expressionists.

Hayes: What time period were they from?

Roberts: Well, they were in the '50s in New York, and it was-- New York became pretty much the world scene for what was happening in art with Rothko and De Kooning, and Motherwell and a bunch of people, and Leon Shanker [ph?] who used to be one of the artists here, he's since retired to Raleigh, he was contemporary of those guys. He had stories about Soho, and hanging out with this one and that one. But the freedom of that is what really...

Hayes: Freedom in what sense? That you're not tied to a subject?

Roberts: Yeah. You know, we've all got a paint of a covered bridge with a tree and a mailbox, and have a little person there. I don't even know if I could, you know. I don't know if I have the ability. But I really wasn't interested in that. But I was interested in the more expressionistic-- I think Rick Mauve [ph?] said it well one time. "Some artists paint with like a three haired brush, and some artists use a mop." And I lean towards the mop.

Hayes: You showed me earlier one of your big tools, which is basically a trowel.

Roberts: Yes, a sheet rock trowel.

Hayes: It is a fairly recent acceptance to do this abstract of work isn't it?

Roberts: I don't get bogged down in that thing. We live in an image-heavy world. Everywhere we go, on everything, is an image; magazines, billboards, logos, gear shift knobs, whatever it is. The thing that is important to me is a good image. The world is lousy with images. So, to me the formal things about painting, our composition and balance are overriding concerns rather than just a slick photograph. You see what I'm saying? And that's where the Giclee thing kind of rubs me the wrong way, because it's more of the same of, get it out there and sell it. Get it out there and sell it. And I'm very content. I'm in a good gallery now. We've had experiences with bad galleries here in Wilmington too. And a lot of people got burned with one specific bad gallery, which, we won't go into that, to the point where I said I'm never going to do this again. I mean, I won't go to a gallery again. I'll enter things, and I'll have shows where people will let me. And I've had exhibitions in Europe in my travels. So there's always that. But there's a really wonderful gallery here in town, and they approached me about a year-and-a-half ago, and asked me if I would have a show there.

Hayes: Which gallery was this?

Roberts: This is Three Hounds Gallery.

Hayes: Where is that located?

Roberts: They're next to where Roudabush's used to be, Front street.

Hayes: Are they upstairs?

Roberts: No. They have a storefront right on Front and Dock.

Hayes: Yes. I have seen that gallery. They're between an antique store in there?

Roberts: Yes, and they have another gallery space across the street that is upstairs, which they keep a lot of the folks that they show. So if there's someone serious about buying something, they'll take them there and go through. But they're very professional. Unlike other galleries in the past, I got paid with a check. I get a tax statement from them. It's legitimate.

Hayes: Do they come from outside or are they locals?

Roberts: I think they-- folks moved here.

Hayes: I don't know anything about them.

Roberts: Yeah, it's new blood. I mean, I've been to other galleries where they pay you cash in an envelope, and of course it turns out-- I don't like that. I like above-board behavior, and if someone's going to be honest about things then I'll take a chance with them. I've been very happy with them.

Hayes: The downside to the originality that you have is that your work is not cheap. It takes you a long time. You've been in it a long time. It's large work. It's not inexpensive, right? You can't just give it away.

Roberts: No. The gallery helps set the market value, at least locally, of what you've got. And so you don't want to sell something, say out of your studio that would undercut their sales. So my paintings are priced at a price that they feel like they can sell it at. And that over the years has increased. I mean, at first I was selling stuff for $200, and now its $2,000 and above, which, it ain't great, but it's not bad.

Hayes: One of the issues that always happens for art. Particularly for the original art, is that there's such a small market that can find the discretionary income to do this. Hasn't there always been that problem?

Roberts: That's right. Well, if it's a problem.

Hayes: Art gets to the masses in reproduction mode, right?

Roberts: Yeah, or published in a catalog, or that kind of thing, which, that's not the painting, but you get more biographical information too. Yeah, again, I make the distinction between making the work and all that goes into it, the way you live in order to make work, and the marketing of work, which is something that I'm not interested in. I'm interested in the check, but I don't want to go do it.

Hayes: I think that's always been a challenge for the artist. How much do they want to mess with that, and you who use galleries.

Roberts: Well, but I'll do anything if it makes sense and it's honest. I do have a Web site, and it's mostly for contact. I don't anticipate selling. It's not set up to sell actually, on the Web site. Who knows? I have sold stuff that people have seen a photograph in a catalog. There was a guy in Austria saw a painting that I had done.

Hayes: A guy in Austria saw it?

Roberts: Yeah, a painter. He's since passed away from cancer. A young guy, he was about 35 I think when it happened. But anyway, he saw one of my pieces and wanted to buy it, and how much. I told him, and he said okay. I sent the piece to him. He sent me the money. Total trust, no well gee, you know, I better make sure that he sends me the money thing. There is a certain element of trust that I'm probably pretty foolish with, but it's important to me.

Hayes: How did the international colony movement that you've jumped into come about?

Roberts: Well, that's been the real pinnacle, and the reason for getting even more involved in art. Pam Toll, one of my partners here at Acme, in-- was it '93, '94, went to Macedonia through an artist colony on the advice of a friend of hers who had just finished a Fulbright in Scopia, Macedonia, which is the capital city. And she got back and told Pam, "You need to go to this country and do this." It's a passionate little country, and, you know, probably the-- the Department of Culture is probably bigger than the Department of Defense, which is probably what it should be.

Hayes: That's a good moral.

Roberts: Anyway, Pam went and it was the-- the colony was Sveti Joakim Osogovski which is in this mountain town near the Bulgarian border. This beautiful monastery built in the-- well, they started building it like in the eighth century. The first church, I think was built in the 13th, and then the second church was built in like the sixth century, or-- anyway, it's old. And it's beautiful, with frescoes of the icons and it's an orthodox church. But she went to this colony and came back, and she was just transformed, in my mind anyway.

Hayes: You could see it?

Roberts: Yeah, and so the next year-- I'm watching all this stuff, and she asks Gayle Tustin to go with her to the same colony. So they go and come back, and Gayle's work starts getting really strong. It has been, but I mean, I could see a real difference. So I say, well, I want to go. This was like '96 at this point, and Pam, well I guess. Here's the address. You know, she wasn't too excited about it. It's okay. It's cool. And so, I sent the guy some slides and was invited the next year, and went and I just fell in love with the country and the people I met there. And I met Serge Andrieski [ph?] at that colony. Here's a funny, good story. When I first met Serge who I've been working with now for over ten years, every year we do an exhibition or something together; Paris, Germany, here, Macedonia. But I was in my studio and I was going, what the hell am I doing here. These people are good and I was feeling, like this big. Trying to figure out what I was going to do. I had two weeks to do it. And he comes in to my studio one night and he couldn't speak English very well, and I couldn't speak Macedonian at all. He says, "In three days, you and me, we make painting together," and he told me where. And he said, "You be there," and he left. And he said, "You think about what you're going to paint." "Okay." (laughs) Not only that-- so I did. I showed up with my little paint box, and all the stuff that I had planned to do. And there was a canvas laying on the ground, maybe as large as this, and a little crowd had gathered. It felt like the O.K. Corral, you know. It's a performance, and I'm not a performer. But anyway, Serge made a mark on the canvas and started. So I made a mark in response, did some stuff. I had brushes and anyway, we went back and forth and back and forth like that. Almost like musicians jamming. You start responding to each other. Within an hour the painting had developed almost fully. And then he finished his part, and I-- for my finally I had been working on body prints here, where you take gesso on the model, and you put onto paper for a print of the models body. So I had taken some gesso with me just in case I had a chance to use it. So I tore off my shirt, and I took the roller and just gessoed my whole upper torso, and my hands, and printed myself onto the painting, and that was it. And it turns out that painting's still around. He's got it. It's a darn good painting. (laughs)

Hayes: So do you continue to joint work with him, or are you just friends now?

Roberts: We do both.

Hayes: Isn't it unusual for two people to work together on a painting?

Roberts: We clicked. I don't know. We feel like we're brothers. His family's my family now, and I watched his kids grow up. And my wife and his wife are tight and they don't let us get in trouble, (laughs) or they try. But, yeah, we've done something every year. He's a member of an organization in Paris, Cite Internationale des Arts, which is a huge complex of galleries, and apartments. People from all over the world have these apartments. Some countries have like one or two apartments, and they can send artists from their country to go there and work for a month at a time, and very cheap. And so he had the one available from Macedonia. This was like six years ago or so. And he said, "Would you like to do a show in Paris with me, and we will paint together?" And I said, "Yeah, that would be great." So he came here first, and we painted a lot of little paintings with the intent...

Hayes: With the intent to take them with you?

Roberts: Right. We would carry those. Actually we did all the work here. That's right, even the big ones. We just had to take them off the stretchers and roll them. But we painted a lot of little paintings, and then we put them together, like diptych, and that's how they were presented. So that was easy enough to carry, because each painting was...

Hayes: So each of you had segments of the painting?

Roberts: Yeah. And then on two of the big canvases, and these were like four by five feet, we painted on the same canvas like we had done on that first one. And so we took the show to Paris and stayed at Cite for a month. It was great.

Hayes: Where was the show? At the same place?

Roberts: Yeah, the gallery. This place is right on the Seine, the river. Our apartment overlooked the river, and its right at Ile Saint-Louis.

Hayes: So what are you thinking? You are thinking about Brevard and I'm in Paris with a show.

Roberts: Well, I wasn't thinking about Brevard. (laughs)

Hayes: What were you thinking about from where you started with this?

Roberts: Well, I've done good. I mean, we all felt like Hemingway. I mean, you know it was-- Serge had been there, and he knows his way around and I was the new kid. I got used to it very fast. And we also had a mutual friend there, Michele Rabi [ph?] who I'd met at the colony in Macedonia the first year, and he was a dear friend. And we would work together too, but not like Serge.

Hayes: What a great extension of Wilmington to the world. Here you are showing great work in Paris and Macedonia.

Roberts: Well, we took that same show to Nuremberg, Germany like a half-a-year later.

Hayes: Did it get critical success?

Roberts: Local papers, and the-- I think the Nuremberg thing we had a blurb in the paper. It was at a gallery there. I know when we had the show in Paris the Macedonian Ambassador of Paris kept bringing people to the show. We had it up for almost a month, and I think he came three or four times in with little hangers-on [ph?] to show them the thing. It got really good response. I don't have any print evidence of it, but-- yeah. And so we'd like that and actually we are collaborating now for a show in August in Macedonia. I have these rather violent paintings on the wall right now that I'm working on. The theme is Alexander the Great.

Hayes: Which is dear to their heart.

Roberts: Well, I'll backup a little bit. Serge and I did a show together about six years ago in Macedonia called Forms of Passion. And it was my paintings and his paintings and then the poems by this Macedonian poet, Blaze Koneski. And we had it all together. Erotic art was the theme of the show, and it was such a success. We had a great turn out. There's a thing-- one of the major cities in Macedonia is Ohrid and it's a beautiful, old religious city. It's on a beautiful lake, and they have a festival every summer, Ohrid Nights, and many, many different events of, you know, classical music concerts, whatever. Our event won the most popular event for the Ohrid Nights, which is like, you know, maybe six weeks of festival. So that was fun, really enjoyed it. So I was asked last year to work with the same guys again on the Alexander the Great thing. Except, these guys are Macedonians, so it's not Alexander the Great. It's Alexander the Macedonian.

Hayes: It was his home territory, and he was a Greek?

Roberts: Nope. He was a Macedonian but he used Greek armies, as well as Macedonian armies to do what he did for his conquest. But anyway, I'm going what? Okay, I'd love to. And then I'm thinking well, what in the hell am I going to do about-- you know, my wife...

Hayes: You are an abstract artist, what are you doing?

Roberts: You know, I can do figures. I mean, I enjoy it and I have a whole series of that kind of stuff. This is the serious work for me. So I've started because-- first I read everything I could find about Alexander the Great so I could get a sense of it other than knowing that one of the better wines in Macedonia is called Alexander, but that's not going to help me paint. (laughs) So I read. And well, the guy was a violent guy. I mean, you know. He became conqueror of the known world and killed a lot of people, died young. And so I go, said, "Gee, I don't know what to do here." Then I read a story about his horse. Should I wait until...

Hayes: No. I think we're good. The tape is rolling.

Roberts: Okay, good. One thing I was-- yeah, it's fine. I was looking for something nice to do, you know, that would be not warm and fuzzy, but a good story. His father, Alexander's father, was King Philip of Macedonia. He bought this horse and no one could tame it. No one could do anything with this horse. It was just a wild horse. And he got so frustrated that he was just going to let it go, or have it slaughtered or something. He didn't want to mess with it anymore. And Alexander at that time was a 12 year old kid and he says... (background talking) I'm sorry. He says to his father, "I can do something with that horse." And his father said, "Yeah right-- show me." And Alexander, according to the story noticed that the horse was afraid of its own shadow. He kept rearing, that's one of the things that was bothering the horse. So he turned the horse into the sun, got on its back and he rode the horse, and that was his horse for all of his military conquests. Bucephalus is the name of the horse.

Hayes: They really have that recorded?

Roberts: Yeah. So I did a painting. It's at the gallery now, of Bucephalus in the shadow, which was kind of a nice thing. Nobody died, you know. (laughs)

Hayes: And we all like horses?

Roberts: Yeah. But so, I got into these rather violent things. You know, the soldiers going into battle. There's a lot of color, and there's...

Hayes: Has color always been pivotal to you work?

Roberts: Well, actually there's a story there. (laughs) When I first started here at Acme, a lot of my stuff was pretty dark.

Hayes: Do you mean in color?

Roberts: Dark and in theme. Yeah, you know, I had Hitler's in tutus and anyway...

Hayes: Another time?

Roberts: Another time. (laughs) When I met my current wife, who is a very rosy, wonderful person, I had just gotten out of a pretty devastating divorce procedure thing, and it was dark. And I met Tina, and all of a sudden-- well, not all of a sudden, but my paintings started to get lighter and more color. And people around here were going, hmm, so what's going on with you? I hadn't noticed it either, but I was allowing, you know, the good side of me, I think, to come back. So color is a big deal for me. It's a very big deal.

Hayes: Okay. We are going to just stop and change the tape if that's okay with you.

Roberts: Sure.

(tape change)

Hayes: Okay. We're back with tape number two with Dick Roberts, artist here at Acme Art and it's Sherman Hayes, University Librarian at UNCW. Dick, we got some sense of those early life changing when you went to Macedonia, but tell us about how you kind of had a payback for that experience by creating No Boundaries.

Roberts: Yes, and that's one of the bigger stories, I think. Pam and Gayle had gone and then I went and came back and was very excited. Pam, at that time, said, "We need to have our own colony and give back the gift and invite people that invited us plus other people." And so, we talked about it and got excited about the idea and that's how No Boundaries was born.

Hayes: You three are the founding whatevers.

Roberts: Yes, we're the founding mothers or fathers.

Hayes: Mothers and fathers.

Roberts: It was Pam's inspiration. She's been the driving force throughout and Gayle; they're just invaluable partners. So, we had our first colony in 1998. Pam had made a suggestion to the owner of Bald Head Island about the colony. His response, this is Captain Mitchell, said, "Do it. Let's do it." And so, automatically, we had a place--

Hayes: And a local place. I mean we can't offer monasteries. But gosh, an island in the ocean is a pretty impressive--

Roberts: Well, where we were it felt like a monastery on Bald Head. Bald Head Island, these are the three light keeper's cottages when Bald Head was Smith Island, I think. There was a lighthouse there to keep ships from - not the lighthouse that you see now, but there was another tower, a light tower to keep ships from running aground on the shoals, Cape Fear Shoals. These were where the light keepers lived. These houses are over 100 years old. There are three of them. And so, Bald Head Corporation has renovated them. That's kept the character of the houses, but they have power and water and modern kitchens and like that. So, he offered us two weeks in November. We would give him X amount of paintings in payment that would be produced. Essentially, at our first colony, we pre-sold work that didn't exist.

Hayes: This is the moment for most colonies, isn't it, that have-- Their work stays around and things like that?

Roberts: I haven't run into a colony that does what we do. We give our sponsors a painting for a certain amount of money and work on paper on for a lesser amount of money. That is what finances the colony. Bald Head gives us the houses and golf carts for two weeks and then we use the work to finance the colony. Also, we have enough where we have a fairly sizeable collection now over the years. We started in 1998. We're getting ready to do our 2008 colony this year.

Hayes: In November?

Roberts: In November. We're already meeting. Getting ready for that.

Hayes: Did you also have some other sponsors and fundraisers and things?

Roberts: Well, different sponsors would give different amounts of money and again, I think Pam and Gayle are really good at that. I'm the guy that doesn't want to sell his own work. But anyway, I think we work well together. We have different skills that fit together.

Hayes: So, how is the colony modeled? What do you do?

Roberts: What we do is what I said. We invite the internationals to come. They have to pay their airfare. Once they get to Wilmington, we pick them up at the airport. We cover their food, their art supplies and their lodging. In return, they give us two paintings that we use for sponsors, or to put in the collection or both.

Hayes: Now, are they here two weeks or one week?

Roberts: Two.

Hayes: They do multiple paintings?

Roberts: Yes. We start out by giving each artist seven canvases. In the early colonies, I built the canvases myself here in the studio because we couldn't afford to buy canvases. So, I would build and stretch 120 canvases.

Hayes: So, they do the same thing-- They're done. They're happy with their work. They roll it up and take it back on the plane.

Roberts: The ones that we don't select for No Boundaries belong to the artists. We only ask that we get a percentage of sale if they sell one that was produced at the art colony. I think it's 10% or something. It's not much. A lot of people will just leave everything rather than roll a painting and take it back on the plane and all that. Some take their work and some don't. Some give us the whole thing.

Hayes: Are they coming and getting the same kind of experience you had? What does the artist get from this two weeks, both you and these people? What do you get?

Roberts: You get two weeks of unstructured time to do nothing but paint and hang out with artists.

Hayes: Just painters? I mean are there other--

Roberts: We've had photographers, printmakers, but mostly painting, yes.

Hayes: You don't have all the equipment to do some of the things that--

Roberts: No, we're not set up to do that. We get everything out there on a barge and everybody gets their paintings. We buy paint, which is no small thing anymore. It's thousands of dollars. Everybody goes. The value of the colony, aside from just working, uninterrupted work - you don't have to pay a bill or run to the store or whatever you do normally during your day. You have unstructured time. The meals punctuate the day. We have an evening meal at the colony that everybody comes to.

Hayes: You create community--

Roberts: Right, a big long table and we all sit. Those meals are catered by volunteers. So, all the meals are paid for, the evening meals. Sometimes it's a restaurant. Sometimes it's a couple or a person who wants to cook for 25 people.

Hayes: They have to come out _____________________. _________________In another life, doing yard sales. We got to talking and she had done that. She loved that. I think she was a part-time artist. I mean I don't think she was a professional, but she loved that.

Roberts: Well, they show up with their pots and their food and cook all day and the service and then they stay the night. That's usually a Saturday-- Well, every night. They can hang out and party and whatever is going on that night. Many times, a meal will turn into drinking wine and dancing. Sometimes, it's more quiet. We might watch someone's video of their work or things like that.

Hayes: What about language in this? In all of these, you always have the challenge of talking because you have them from everywhere.

Roberts: Many of the artists- almost all of the artists that we've invited are multilingual and English being one of the languages, even if it's not their best language. However, last time in 2006, we had a guy from China - Wei [ph?] Ru [ph?] - and he spoke no English whatsoever. I think Gayle lined up a translator - a local restaurant owner. So, we had a translator for Wey Rue when he would come out at different times. And sometimes, we would have to call him on the phone and we'd have a three-way phone conversation, translating things. But yes, you can do it. I mean when I went to Macedonia the first time, everything was in Macedonian or French. A few people would speak English, but a lot of times you were just trying to guess what everyone was saying. I've been back every year for the last ten years. The joke is every year, I learn a new word.

Hayes: (laughs)

Roberts: I'm better than that. But, language doesn't seem to be a real problem. People are talking to each other about serious things while they're working or exploring the material. Some will go out to paint together in the maritime forest or on the beach.

Hayes: But, they're there to do work too. So if you're the real chatty type, somebody might say to you, "I'm doing work," right? It's not--

Roberts: Yes. We haven't run into that problem. You have plenty of time to work if you think about it. I mean if you got up at a normal time, say 8:00 or 9:00, have a little breakfast; the breakfast and lunch are kind of on your own. You just go raid the refrigerator. You have all morning and all afternoon until about 8:00 at night to work.

Hayes: And the weather is generally sometimes good here in November. In some weeks, you probably had good weather and other times you had--

Roberts: Well, I think the weather is great in November. You have a day every once in a while where it might be rainy and windy and cold, when a front comes through. But, I mean we've been swimming in the ocean with the dolphins. It's a good time of year because the water hasn't really chilled down yet for the winter and there are no bugs, no mosquitoes.

Hayes: The other thing is if you had bad weather, you might inspired by that. That's the other--

Roberts: Whatever is around you, I guess, will inspire you.

Hayes: I mean that's what I'm saying. I mean I came out one year; one of the first years and I took some pictures. Gee, the weather was pretty amazing for my pictures because it wasn't just a standard day - bright sunny sky.

Roberts: You know, rainy days and whatever, you do stuff inside. But yes, it's all about being together.

Hayes: How do you pick the artists? Now that you've been doing it a while, is this a petition? Do people apply?

Roberts: We have a mechanism where people can apply. However, we usually fill it up before that happens. What we do is Pam and Gayle and I invite equal amounts of foreign artists that we have worked with, that we know. I made the mistake one year of inviting a person that I met on the Internet. Not a good idea. It was not a disaster, but it was not great. So, we try to invite people that we have met in our travels, that we have worked with in other colonies. Since that first colony, we've all been back to Macedonia, been to other colonies in Germany and Pam has been involved in a new group called Paint the Future where she's painting paintings for them to sell to build houses for people in those communities; one in Brazil and now the last one she attended was in France. So, there are always people that you're meeting because of these artists getting together to work. And so, this year we will each invite-- I think each of us are going to invite four people. We're changing the colony a little bit this year where normally we invite Americans-- We were doing it in like three-day shifts. That's a logistics problem. So last year or 2006, we did it Americans would come for a week and then the changeover would be the middle weekend.

Hayes: But the international people would be here the two weeks.

Roberts: Two weeks.

Hayes: So Americans being people from the region.

Roberts: Yes, Wilmington and also last time, we had someone from Alabama. There would be five or six Americans along with the international folks. But this time, we're going to try to invite only three Americans for the entire two weeks. So, there's no transition and it's going to be predominately international.

Hayes: But, how many of your founders are going to be there? The three of you?

Roberts: Oh, yes. Pam and Gayle and I will be there.

Hayes: Plus three more.

Roberts: Right.

Hayes: So, it's not going to be just three. I mean--

Roberts: No. It'll work out really well. I think it's going to really help, although it's not that difficult focusing in the colony, for me anyway. But it cuts down on the logistics plus the time will be less interruptive but having--

Hayes: If you have shifts, people coming in and people going out.

Roberts: Yes. We have enough change with the new meal coming in every night, which is a good thing. But yes, it's been an overwhelming experience in terms of meeting people, broadening your horizons.

Hayes: And you learn things? I mean you must help each other. Every time you get some artists together, they all have techniques.

Roberts: Yes. I think people learn from each other if they're interested. Some people do their shtick and that's that.

Hayes: And you don't have any set agenda that you're pushing one way or the other.

Roberts: No, we don't do that - "Well, we want you to paint on this theme" or "We have a sponsor that wants this."

Hayes: And I know after each show, you have various showings of the works so people of the community get to see the work. We've had some at UNCW at Randall library--

Roberts: That's one of the valuable things of the colony is what we do after. The show at the library is one example. We have a big show here after the colony while all the internationals are still here like the day after we close the colony on Bald Head Island. I'm in charge of taking 100 or more wet oil paintings on the truck--

Hayes: On the barge.

Roberts: Put them on the barge and get them over here and hang to show. Then, we have this big reception.

Hayes: How long does it take for them to really dry sufficiently? [inaudible]

Roberts: It depends on how thick you're painting. Serge [ph?] gave me a painting the first year and the paint was this thick on it. I think that was in 1998 and I think two years ago, we stopped smelling oil paint in the living room.

Hayes: That's a lot of paint.

Roberts: But, it's not that bad. What we do is we bracket the paintings together with the wood and screws so they can't touch each other and shift in the load. That's take time - loading the truck and doing that. Then, we have our collection here, which we keep here at Acme. We have a show now that has started traveling last May and have hit six venues throughout the state - UNCG, various arts councils. And now, it's opened at Wachovia Towers in Greensboro for the seventh venue and then it comes back.

Hayes: Do you do a grant or something to help with that?

Roberts: No, total _______________. We have another art organization that we are working with sometimes and that's Asolare. That's Jim Moon who is a North Carolina painter. He's probably in his 80s now. He was another one of them New York guys like Leon that knew all the folks in Soho in the 1950s. He has a studio and 80 acres of land up in Lexington and Asolare is the name of his art organization where he had been promoting North Carolina artists by inviting, say, six or seven us at a time to show in the Lincoln Center at Avery Fisher Hall Gallery.

Hayes: Up in New York?

Roberts: Yes.

Hayes: So, he has a big spread in North Carolina?

Roberts: Yes. I mean that's where his studio is, but he's been all around and he knew a lot of the people. He drops names really well - Douggie Guggenheim [ph?] and whoever. But, it's all true. So, we got to know him because he invited me to go the first time and then I think Pam and Gayle, both have all been in the Asolare show in New York. The first year, I took everyone - cutting off a little bit. After the colony the first year in 1998, I took two Argentinean artists and three Macedonia artists, including Serge, to my parents' house in the mountains for Thanksgiving. And so, we all went up there in a big van and had a great time. When we came back through Lexington to visit Jim Moon who I knew from an old friend of mine who is a classic guitarist; that's another story. Jim and Serge became very close very quickly. And so, Asolare has been working with No Boundaries on various things. Serge has created his own art organization in Macedonia, which I'm a part of now because we bought a house there. It's called Artpoint- Gumno. Gumno is a Macedonian word for a gathering spot. It's where the mill in the center of each village was. And so, that's the gathering spot.

Hayes: So, he's using that as an organizing kind of--

Roberts: Yes, as a metaphor. So, Jim and Serge have worked with Artpoint and Asolare together and then Jim has offered Asolare to travel our show around. So, we've done a lot. He's had Asolare exhibitions here at Acme. So, we work together when we can.

Hayes: That's great. Was it the last year, you even worked with the city to bring some artists from--

Roberts: Yes, that was cool. That was a deviation from our normal plan. Normally, we just invite the artists that we know, as I said. But Gayle said, "Why don't we get involved with the Sister Cities program?" So, she and I and my wife, Tina, joined the Sister Cities Association here in Wilmington and talked them into basically two things. One was inviting an artist from the country from our sister cities to come and be an artist at No Boundaries and two was to underwrite the reception and stuff here. They bought into it. They liked it so. The first thing we did; Gayle did - she was beautiful. She got Bill Saffo who was newly the mayor - been the mayor for a week or something at that point. She went marching up to his office with a letter she had drafted inviting these artists, to get him to sign it so he was inviting them for us - "The mayor of Wilmington invites you to come" - blah, blah, blah.

Hayes: Who picked those artists though? Did the local city?

Roberts: The local city.

Hayes: Oh, good. So, you know you're going to get a good one, or you should have gotten a good one.

Roberts: Well, every one of them were good. The one from England, Ellie Collits [ph?] is just a phenomenal painter, abstract painter, which--

Hayes: You liked.

Roberts: Yes, a lot. I think everybody liked her work because it's just wonderful. And then, there was--

Hayes: What was the city?

Roberts: Doncaster. Then, Neville [ph?] Crawford from Barbados and then Wei Ru from Guangdong, China. I suspect that was probably a bit more political than some of the other ones, but he was great. He's a fine painter. And then, through an association with Serge's organization; he had done a residency in Cramerty [ph?], Scotland a couple of years ago and met the Cramerty Group. And so, we invited Rosie Newman from Cramerty to join us at No Boundaries. So, we had three Sister Cities artists and then one artist through the association with Cramerty and Artpoint. So, you see, it spirals outward. Each year, we meet more and more people.

Hayes: That's great, and you stay in touch with the people that have come as best you can.

Roberts: Oh, yes.

Hayes: Of course, having the Internet makes a difference for that. That's great.

Roberts: I hope we have e-mail for the rest of our lives. It has made this possible, yes.

Hayes: Let's end by letting you speculate-- You're newly retired and you have a house in Macedonia and you have a successful Acme. If I come back in five years and talk to you about what you've done in this last five-year period, what's going to be your next step here because you're at an interesting point in your art?

Roberts: Mainly the same. I don't see a real deviation from that - continue to work, continue to show, continue to travel, just more intensely and for longer periods. We're going to Sloeshtica, which is the little village where our house is in Macedonia, where Artpoint is. We went for a month last year and this year, we're going for three months. We'll leave in June and come back in the middle of September.

Hayes: And your wife can do this? She can get away?

Roberts: She has a part-time job. She works at Barnes & Noble. She's a Montessori teacher, but the school had to close. She's been working at Barnes & Noble just to bring in some extra--

Hayes: But, she can take a break.

Roberts: They'll probably fire her. But, we have to learn live poor because my retirement isn't great. It's state retirement, but it's not bad.

Hayes: And when you get there, it's a different lifestyle, right?

Roberts: Totally.

Hayes: More natural in the things you have.

Roberts: Well, we bought food in the village. You get eggs from this guy and yogurt from this person over here and chickens from this person and fresh fish from that guy and bread from the woman down the road.

Hayes: Do you have any kids at all? I was going to say that would complicate it if you had--

Roberts: Tina has a grown son who now is married and has a little child. So, my wife is a grandmother. I never thought that way of her. I told her--

Hayes: You don't want to Remind her of her that.

Roberts: Well, she's proud of it. I keep saying I don't think that makes me a grandfather though because we weren't married then.

Hayes: [inaudible]

Roberts: Like it matters... But anyway-- So anyway, we'll stay longer and it'll also allow me to do things that I could do before time wise.

Hayes: Can you travel out of Macedonia pretty easily? Are you going to do lots of Europe?

Roberts: We'll probably go to Greece. We'd like to go to Istanbul if we can swing it. We have a friend there. She was at one of our colonies.

Hayes: Oh, that's nice. That's the other thing is you bring people in, you have at least a place to crash.

Roberts: Yes, we have all that. Well, Tina and I were just in Paris last September. On the way back from Macedonia, we stopped for a week and stayed with a friend there. We spent Christmas in Nuremberg, with a friend there.

Hayes: I think it's great that you're bringing such an international flavor to our coast too. That helps us out. ________________ We have more international people here, right?

Roberts: It goes a long way. It really does. That does excite me that that kind of thinking has taken. The thing is that it's not hokey. It's not for someone's commercial gain. It is for the right reasons and it's genuine enthusiasm. That's the real upshot of what we've been doing. Everything that I've been doing since I was a little kid kind of comes in this direction. Look at all the serendipity things that have happened that allowed that to happen. If I had not met Pam and Rick and Marshal, Acme would never had happened. If I and Pam had not gone to Macedonia for the colony--

Hayes: Yes, nobody would have known--

Roberts: --No Boundaries never would have happened. So, we're lucky.

Hayes: Well, thank you very much for the interview.

Roberts: Well, thank you, Sherman.

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