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Interview with Tracy Wilkes, March 10, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Tracy Wilkes, March 10, 2008
Date:
March 10, 2008
Description:
Interview with Tracy Wilkes, co-founder and Executive Director of DREAMS of Wilmington, a non-profit organization which provides a performance and visual arts-based youth development program to at-risk children and teenagers.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Wilkes, Tracy Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  3/10/2008 Series:  Arts Length  45 minutes

 

Hayes: Welcome. Thank you for talking to us. We're with Tracy Wilkes. Did I get that right?

Wilkes: Yes, you did.

Hayes: You're the director of--?

[audio glitch]

Wilkes: DREAMS Center for Arts Education.

[audio glitch]

Hayes: For anybody who happens to be listening or looking at the transcription, there's a much fuller interview in another program that we probably have you classed as a notable or super volunteer before you became [audio glitch].

Wilkes: You'll forgive my terrible cold. I hope it doesn't interfere too much in my speech.

[audio glitch]

Hayes: For more information about the broad [audio glitch]. How people refer to it usually, the dream center?

Wilkes: Yes.

Hayes: That's D-R-E-A-M. Does that stand for something?

Wilkes: It does. It's an acronym, but I can't ever remember what it is. When we first thought of the program, it was I better not even try.

Hayes: But it really means dreams.

Wilkes: Yes. It means dreams.

Hayes: Give me just a few minutes on the overall purpose and then we'll concentrate on visual.

Wilkes: Well, DREAMS is a performing visual arts program, but it is really a youth development program that uses the arts. So while we're concerned with artistic excellence, we are equally concerned, if not more concerned, with the development of creative and competent citizens. The arts are a fabulous and effective youth development tool. You can kind of go in the back door. Kids don't even know that it's good for them. It's therapeutic. It's curative. That's really why I started the program. In a way we bit off more than we can chew, because we decided to do performing and visual. Can we really be good at all of that?

Hayes: You mean as an institution?

Wilkes: Yes.

Hayes: Not the student.

Wilkes: No. DREAMS just won this national award through the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities called Coming Up Taller. It was interesting to note that the 15-member programs that were also honored specialized in one thing. One was a dance program. One was a photography program. One was a painting program.

Hayes: You were the only one that did two?

Wilkes: Yes. We were the only one that was a multi-disciplinary program. We go back and forth on a daily basis. Just a drama program. The fact that one kid will come through the door and is a great drawer. He draws well and you think, "Oh, he will never be happy in the performing arts." Because there are no opportunities in this town for kids living in poverty.

Hayes: This is your audience? I think we need to make that clear. This is a challenging role for anybody, but this is not targeted to anybody.

Wilkes: No. In fact, I like to say and I say it frequently that for kids in the middle and upper middle class, the arts are an extra-curricular activity. For kids living in poverty, they're really a way off the street. Of course, I believe that the arts are as important as food, drink, shelter. The arts and creative expression is really the language of the soul. If you're poor, you're not getting it. For those of you who have sent children to ballet classes or guitar classes and you yourself, who's ever watching this.

Hayes: Or drama. Or art supplies. What do they cost? You're right. This becomes very much a luxury.

Wilkes: Exactly. It's prohibitively expensive for most of the families that come here. So while they want to have the dream, part of that dream was to have a free of charge program, which it is. How we do that is if one person qualifies for the reduced or free lunch, they can come into the program for free. If they are a little above that line, we have a suggested parent donation based on income. That is the genesis of the program. It was kind of a social justice issue, too, being an old social worker. I wanted the arts to be accessible to this group of children.

Hayes: And you're in a facility that the people who are listening don't know is on Ann Street.

Wilkes: Right, 6th and Ann.

Hayes: Which is a downtown location. You're not out in the suburbs saying, "Please come out to me by bus." You're within the neighborhood that most of your audience comes from?

Wilkes: Well, it's kind of funny. When we got this building, we rent this building from Union Missionary Baptist Church. It was their old church before they moved. I did not know Wilmington very well. So when I had conceived of the program, I had poor kids of every hue in mind. This was the Rainbow Coalition. This was Caucasian, Asian, African-American, you name it. But what I didn't know is ________ come from the inner city and that poor white kids and poor Hispanic kids were out in the hinterlands.

Hayes: Not even necessarily in Wilmington, you mean out of the county even?

Wilkes: Yes. So since the inception of the program, it was mostly African-American kids. One of the basic principles of the program is to be able to connect kids to their culture. We became pretty Afro-centric pretty quickly.

Hayes: Are you still that way?

Wilkes: No, less so, because we have more of a range in terms of ethnicity at this point. But I've learned a lot of stuff I didn't know. We ________ in a very global way, but you start with your own people and what they brought to the table in terms of artistic history and I found out a lot of stuff.

Hayes: The age group you're targeting?

Wilkes: 8 through 18.

Hayes: 8 years old through 18?

Wilkes: Right.

Hayes: The students are generally in school? You don't serve an out of school population?

Wilkes: We serve, for instance, the juvenile day treatment center. That's an alternative treatment program for young people who some are court involved, some have mental illness issues, but they're not cutting it in the mainstream schools. So we're there as part of the curriculum. We're in the school day.

Hayes: You go to that facility?

Wilkes: Yes. We have about 14 different locations, with 515 Ann Street being the central location. We are in most public housing enrichment centers. We are at Creekwood North and Creekwood South. We're at Hemmingway Center, Martin Luther King Center. These are all City of Wilmington neighborhood rec centers in predominantly low-income areas. We also do go up to Pender and Brunswick County. Those kids have even less than kids in New Hanover County, less exposure.

Hayes: What is your connection with those counties? Something through their communities?

Wilkes: Yes. They contract with us to provide an arts education. It runs the gamut from drum percussion to fine arts painting.

Hayes: That's interesting. The schools have a good, active art program. But I would guess that your audience doesn't generally tap in at the school?

Wilkes: Well, they do. It depends on the school level. Elementary has very little. They maybe get music once every two weeks. Middle school is not much better than elementary. When we get into high school, that's when at least they have a visual arts [audio glitch]. Laney High School is the only high school with a dance program. There you go.

Hayes: Dance would be unusual, I think.

Wilkes: It used to not be so much that way.

Hayes: This gives us a great sense of the program. I refer people to the longer tape where you must have gone into more depth about how you came to this and led the way.

Wilkes: Right.

Hayes: Let's talk about the visual arts component. What were you and are you continuing to be after?

Wilkes: In my work with children as a therapist, I used a lot of play therapy techniques and a lot of creative arts techniques. I realized early on that kids could really express themselves through a visual medium so much more effectively sometimes than through speech. I understood early on the curative factors of drawing the story, making a book about the story, whatever. That's sort of the treatment mode. I think when we thought visual arts, we realized that was an essential to make sense of history, culture. It was the first form of communication, the drawings on the cave walls. It's probably the most basic to our need to communicate. Obviously, we were going to have this visual arts component. There was one other underlying tenet from the beginning. That was that we were going to try to give these kids a first class arts experience. They so often have second class everything, hand-me-down everything. We didn't want to have volunteers who could kind of draw. We wanted to work with professional artists. This was not just through our visual artists. This was across the board. Wilmington, back then, this was 11 years ago, it had a thriving arts community, but it was a pretty small town. It was pretty funny, because any of you who are watching this or reading the transcripts know that not every artist is a good teacher.

Hayes: That's broader than just artists. Every profession somebody thinks that they can teach and it's not the same.

Wilkes: Working with artists is like herding cats. They are particularly terrible about showing up on time and doing all these things. They're in their creative world. To find professionals, and we wanted professional artists or people that were making at least part of their living through their art form. We felt that would be really good role modeling for the kids. We wanted to be able to say, "Look, here's Mr. Matt. Mr. Matt is a graphic designer. This is what he does for a living." We were less interesting in hiring the Sunday painter. We also didn't want to make it too academic.

Hayes: You're not doing art history.

Wilkes: We do art history, but artists who are not teachers come at kids from a different perspective than teachers who teach art. Some of them are my best friends. I have nothing against it. It's just a different approach.

Hayes: How did you find these people?

Wilkes: It was tough.

Hayes: As I think through the art community, a few I know who have participated in things like this. Sometimes, even after a while they give up because the conflict of wanting to get back to their work. You must have seen this tension with your teachers.

Wilkes: Yes, I have seen that. I will tell you now that most of the artists, whether they're visual or performing that have worked through the DREAMS program are people of great heart. You cannot do the kind of work we do and do it for the paycheck, which is not so great. You are doing it because you have a commitment to the young people, the most vulnerable, marginalized young people in our community.

Hayes: Who are some of the artists?

Wilkes: One of the founding artists, and I don't think he's even here anymore. I've been trying to track him down. I don't know if you know Carlisle Grissett, an African-American painter, quite wonderful. He's probably in his early to mid 60's.

Hayes: I don't know that name at all.

Wilkes: He went to the great arts school in New York in Brooklyn. What's the name of it? Anyway, there are other artists of color who have gotten a lot more exposure, but he is really a master painter, really spectacular stuff. He was the first visual artist that we hired. Pam Toll was a visual artist early on. She's a wonderful teacher and a wonderful person and I believe she's teaching at the university now.

Hayes: That's correct and just finished an MFA, because she wanted to become even a better teacher. That was great.

Wilkes: She's great and still comes along and does workshops for us. As you can see, Carlisle, Pam. Loraine Scalamoni. Do you know Loraine?

Hayes: I do know Loraine.

Wilkes: She is probably one of our best teachers. She has also been here a long time. Mitzy Jonkheer. She's a metalsmith.

Hayes: We'll get to what you do. You do more than just painting.

Wilkes: Oh, yes. Mitzy's been here a long time. Dan Brawley, we worked with Dan. Dixon Stetler. One of my favorite artists did a workshop here. Oh, the gentleman with the white hair, Wayne McDowell.

Hayes: Wow!

Wilkes: Wayne has taught here.

Hayes: These are people we were talking to in the interview and these are the people we have in our collection, so these are really serious artists.

Wilkes: Yes. Wayne did a workshop.

Hayes: So you have classes.

Wilkes: Yes, and then workshops and we partner with No Boundaries. Last year when they had the artist from China and the artist from Peru and there was an artist from Barbados, they all came here and did workshops. We're pretty serious about it.

Hayes: That is great.

Wilkes: The kids get incredible exposure. I have the funniest story to tell you. This happened about a month or two ago. We were having a site visit by the Governor's Crime Commission. GCC is a big funder. I'm nervous, because you want to put your best foot forward and you want everything to go well. I'll tell you want of our most brilliant teachers is Georgia Mastroieni. She is now the teaching artist at the Cameron. She's a resident artist at the Cameron.

Hayes: Georgia?

Wilkes: Georgia Mastroieni. She is an incredible artist. She teaches here once a week. So I'm talking with the GCC woman and I said, "Let's go look at an art class." I walk downstairs and every kid in the art class is under the table. I am freaking out. "Georgia, what are these kids doing under the table?" What they were doing under the table is that they were painting like Michelangelo. She had put pieces of paper so that the kids could get the idea of what it felt like.

Hayes: Fantastic!

Wilkes: There were books of Vatican art and Michelangelo all over the tables and you could see the kids when they came out from under. They were looking at the books. That is art history, because she puts it in context for them. Anyway, of course the GCC woman was incredibly impressed. She said, "Wow! How innovative!" That's the trick, to be innovative when you're teaching anyone, but especially kids who may have very little exposure. They may be coming from environments where there's not a book in the house.

Hayes: There is obviously unlikely to be painting supplies and other things.

Wilkes: Exactly. We've also had all kinds of potters work with us. Shira Hughes [sp?], who is quite a good potter. I'll tell you the other founding artist. I can't believe I missed her, Fritzi Huber.

Hayes: I wondered about that. I didn't want to ask. I know Fritzi does lots of things in the community. In fact, I think she's teaching at one of the Catholic schools now.

Wilkes: Yes, St. Marks. Fritzi's been a long time involved. Joann Alford [sp?]. Joann has actually taught art in the Pender system, I think. She's probably the only teacher as an artist that I have. She's terrific. She does everything.

Hayes: When you said potters, who would be some of the potters?

Wilkes: Shira Hughes is not from here.

Hayes: Is she still here, you mean?

Wilkes: She's back now. She's not from this part of the world. She's a very good potter. Traudi Thornton. She did a summer workshop with us. Hiroshi. That was so funny.

Hayes: This would be interesting. How did Hiroshi do with kids?

Wilkes: That's the whole thing. You never know. I love him. I still have trouble understanding him sometimes. When he came on board, I was thinking, "Wow! How is this going to go over?" They loved each other and Hiroshi did really incredible things with the kids.

Hayes: He's also so calm and approachable. He has a good style.

Wilkes: He did have that effect. I think I have to take a break for just a minute.

Hayes: Okay.

(tape break)

Hayes: We're back and you were off camera telling us a few more. You said Chappy Valente?

Wilkes: Yes. He actually taught at the--

Hayes: I don't want to say indelicately, but he's a senior citizen and he related well to the kids?

Wilkes: Yes. He has sort of a street _____ about him. That's the thing with artists. They are very unlike the rest of us.

Hayes: You're a dramatist, right?

Wilkes: Yes. They have a way of looking at the world and approaching kids. That's the whole thing. It is a huge challenge to find an artist who is doing well in their own career and who has the teaching skills.

Hayes: And who wants to give you the time.

Wilkes: They're paid. In fact, they're better paid than any staff. But anyway, having said that, it's still you do it because you have the heart for it. I think the program has been incredibly lucky to have the quality of artists, as you can see. This is not volunteer Sunday painters, not that I have one thing against them. We do have a lot of volunteers, too.

Hayes: You want somebody who's been through the process in a struggling sense.

Wilkes: We also do photography.

Hayes: Interesting. Who teaches that?

Wilkes: Matt Baumgardner. He's a photographer and commercial graphic designer. He's been doing a lot of our photography and graphic design classes. He's really a terrific photographer in his own right and a very fine teacher.

Hayes: Using digital, I assume, for that?

Wilkes: We are. We'd like to get into a darkroom, but that's pretty tough.

Hayes: And almost passed by now.

Wilkes: yes.

Hayes: This is really a very broad-based program in the sense of the teachers. Tell me the mix of how you tackle it. In other words, do you have classes that go on all the time?

Wilkes: We're actually working towards something now to change how we do the teaching. How it works now is a young person comes about three times a week and they're doing three different things. They may come on Mondays to paint. They may come on Tuesdays to dance. And they may come on Wednesdays to do drama. They're here anywhere between, I would say, two and six hours a week. We're now old enough, have enough kids, have grown up enough, that we're needing to weed out the programs that don't work. For instance, we have a master painting class. It may only have four people in the class. But that class now needs to meet twice a week. We're trying to see what's working and what is popular with the kids and where the talent is and we're racheting up the artistic bar.

Hayes: Not for entry per se?

Wilkes: No. What we do is when an 8 or 9 or 10-year old comes in, we put them through all of the disciplines--dance, drama, music, and art, even if it's just an exposure. Actually, they will do this for a couple of years until we get a sense of where their talent lies. If it's a teenager, they pretty much have discovered what they want to do. We're less interested in the exposure and more interested in getting them to have an in-depth understanding of what the medium is that they're involved in.

Hayes: It seems to me that you're moving in a great direction, because if you stay only as a recreational activity level, that's a really different model than seriously helping somebody.

Wilkes: We've never been a recreational model, never. We've always been really serious about what we do.

Hayes: In the approach that you take. There's nothing wrong with the recreational model, but there's a sense of caretaker with that model and you're not caretaking. You're trying to change people or help them change themselves.

Wilkes: Exactly. Kids, when they come in, are pretty well behaved.

Hayes: I wondered about that in the sense that you're bringing in teachers and so forth. You don't have the school issues of some of those.

Wilkes: No. And the kids want to be here. They want to be here. They're dying to be here. They're still kids. And sometimes they come with such big burdens. Most of our young people come via Department of Social Services, Juvenile Justice system, the school counseling system. We've got kids that are coming in from group homes and foster homes and kids that have experienced abuse and neglect.

Hayes: And problems at home.

Wilkes: And kids that may be gang related and problems at home. We kind of look at ourselves as an oasis, as a still point in sometimes an ever moving life. We have had an incredible success rate. We've got kids that started 10 years ago who are now going to be juniors in college. We follow them, the ones we can.

Hayes: What would be the total number of kids you might have at any time?

Wilkes: Over a year here we have probably between 70 and 100. Out in the community, it's probably like 500 kids a year through something.

Hayes: That's okay. I think it's interesting that you haven't also gone to the exclusive Warren Arts School model also. There are some people who go that route. In other words, if we have 40 successful art students.

Wilkes: No. What's really been interesting over the last 11 years is to see the kind of-- one year we'll have fabulous visual artists. Three years later, there won't be one in the house.

Hayes: Is that right?

Wilkes: When I say fabulous, I mean they could be professional if they worked at it. So we go through these periods.

Hayes: That's just based on the kids and the talent.

Wilkes: Yes. One year we'll be loaded in performing artists. It's really interesting. We have to adjust the program to meet the demand and the needs.

Hayes: At this point, when you talked about the three days and so forth and so on. If they get focused, they might come just for that. Then you said you've gone out into juvenile homes. That's more of a workshop approach?

Wilkes: Yes. It's more workshop. It's more workshop/exposure. What happens is that you may see-- at DREAMS, it's sequential learning. You don't have that luxury in outreach classes, because a young person might not come but once. Whatever the visual artist project is, we're more probably concerned with product than process.

Hayes: Tell me about the kind of person that can go out there. That's a real different skill set.

Wilkes: Fritzi Huber always comes up with the most unique projects. One project is hanging downstairs. It's a paper quilt. You can add and subtract. If a kid doesn't show up one week, it doesn't kill the project. If new kids come in, there's something to do. During the process of making this, she's also teaching about drawing and about color. The lessons are in there. She's really come up with all kinds of inventive stuff. Outreach is not for everyone.

Hayes: It's a different skill set.

Wilkes: You know who else teaches in the program and she's teaching with us right now is Abby Spangel-Perry. She's terrific.

Hayes: What's her particular area?

Wilkes: She's doing print making.

Hayes: Oh!

Wilkes: She's really wonderful. She's a great person. We're lucky to have her.

Hayes: Then summer you run shorter courses, just because it's summer?

Wilkes: Yes. We do an intensive in June when the kids are here every day for three weeks from about 9:00 to 2:00. That's a lot of fun. The kids really get into it. I just want to talk a little bit about exposure. For instance, I don't know if you know John and Susan Hooten [sp?]. They're just super great people, very generous to their community and interested in the arts. They had discovered a wonderful young artist from Madagascar who lives in New York City and his work is amazing. Periodically they bring him to Wilmington to do an in-home art workshop. They just did one I think it was early fall. Of course, people pay to come and work with him. Jangi [sp?] is his name. They scholarship two of our art students. Here they were in this beautiful home on Hewlett's Creek with this artist from Madagascar. That's incredible exposure for these kids.

Hayes: And with other people who are serious about their art. Like you say, modeling.

Wilkes: Of course everybody was just being so wonderful to the young artists and encouraging them. This mask came out of that workshop. That was one of the things that came out.

Hayes: I do find that artists are really supportive of other artists. It doesn't matter what level they're at. There's a kindred spirit there.

Wilkes: Absolutely.

Hayes: That's great. Let's get back to kind of a mundane process of keeping this going. You've got staff that are paid and hopefully, you're paid and you have to rent. The funding comes from a wide variety of places?

Wilkes: Yes, it does. I would say that we would like to be a lot more donor-based than we are. We are predominantly government and private foundation funded. North Carolina Arts Council funds us and we are their, I think, third general support organization. They don't usually give it. We feel really lucky that we have it. As I mentioned, the Governor's Crime Commission. That's for prevention.

Hayes: They're happy? They seem to be happy with this kind of approach?

Wilkes: Yes. I think they're really broad-minded, actually. You wouldn't think of the Governor's Crime Commission as funding an arts program, but they see it as a youth development program. The City of Wilmington has been a supporter for a long time. Landfall Foundation has been very generous. In fact, what we do during the spring break, the Easter break, is that we have visiting artists come and do workshops. That's the Landfall Visiting Artist series. We have coming this March during that spring break, we have-- I always mess up his name. He's an incredible dancer and a professor at UNCG, Dwayne Cyrus. We have another marvelous guy who you probably know named Steve Myatt. Steve is a performing artist. He's from Vermont. He's here now for a while. He's a mime and he's quite good. We have two performing artists. Then we have one visual artist and I can't think of her name.

Hayes: From out of town?

Wilkes: From out of town, yes.

Hayes: They're helping you bring talent from other places?

Wilkes: Yes. No Boundaries has been really great. That's part of the summer program. We have a dance professor from Temple in Philadelphia who comes. She's an amazing African-American dancer with kind of an expertise of blending hip-hop, African, and Caribbean. She'll be coming. I'm trying to think if we have any visual artists. I don't think we have visual artists this summer. We have more performing artists. There's one other artist who teaches in the program. She is really multi-talented. Her name is Cynthia Cooke. She's really a theater person. She's a playwright, but she's a good painter as well. She's teaching a painting class right now.

Hayes: It's not uncommon for folks to be multi-talented. Just like your kids can be in different, instructors can have multiple talents. I know Dan Brawley is a filmmaker. We know very much. I asked him about that and he says, "Wait a minute. I've done painting and this and that." He didn't want to be categorized.

Wilkes: He actually taught film here. That was film and photography.

Hayes: But he also evidently has done murals and paintings and so forth.

Wilkes: Yes. I'll tell you another wonderful artist who's worked with us. That is Dumay Gorham, the sculptor. Again, I think it really points to the excellence factor.

Hayes: You said you wanted to be a little bit more donor-based. What would that involve? Do you mean getting more local folks who would donate?

Wilkes: Yes. Grants can dry up. It's like your stock portfolio. You want to be diversified. Ideally, it should maybe be 50/50 or 60/40, 60% coming from donors, meaning individuals in the community that are supporting the program. My ideal situation would be to have 80% of those funds and to just rely on grants for special projects. But we're not there. It costs about $350,000 a year to run the program, and that's with fairly low salaries across the way and administrative.

Hayes: This has been wonderful. I think we've got a great sense of what we've done. Let me ask the last questions. I wanted you to talk about the mural projects. That's a highly visible one in the community. Tell us about that then I'll ask the last question.

Wilkes: Okay. That is part of our public art initiative. The program breaks down in three ways. That's artist in residence. Those are our guest artists and our teaching artists. Our public art initiative, and our youth entrepreneur initiative. The public art came out of wanting to showcase the kids and to allow them to see the connection between their work and their community. Our first project was the mosaic-ing--is that a word?--of the trashcans on Castle Street. We worked with the city and it was great. You've seen them. They're between 6th and 7th on Castle.

Hayes: I'll have to go look. I'm not sure I've seen them.

Wilkes: All four sides of these trashcans are mosaiced [sic]. Then the Wilmington Arts Association on Castle Street liked it so much that they funded us to do that mural. There's a big mural on the wall at 6th and Castle. You can't miss it. It's gorgeous! That was Loraine Scalamoni. We did it last summer.

Hayes: I'll have to go and get pictures of it.

Wilkes: It's really superb. Then our other mural, if you go to Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, you will also see their trashcan is mosaiced. The kids designed it and that was hard work. The kids helped design it. Then they understand this is flat. This is a piece of paper. This is a design on a piece of paper. Now we're going to work in this three-dimensional way. "Oh, that doesn't work out." I think it's really good for critical thinking skills. You have to take so much into consideration when you're designing a mosaic. We have a really beautiful, and in fact, I'll give you a bookmark. I don't have one right here, but we've made bookmarks out of the mural that's hanging in the juvenile court, which is the big white building on Princess.

Hayes: You have to go into the court to see it?

Wilkes: Yes. It's in the waiting room.

Hayes: Okay.

Wilkes: It's really spectacular. It's a beautiful mural. This is kind of a fun story. The DA, Mr. Ben David, and several of the judges wanted to have a little reception for the artists that did that. My colleague, the associate director, was walking in to the waiting room and the young person with her was like really filled with trepidation. She said, "What's up? This is going to be fun." He said, "I've been in here before and it wasn't so fun." I think this is what we call an emotionally curative experience. He now looks back and is served juice and cookies. I think that one story, and we have a million of them like that, kind of sums up what the program is all about.

Hayes: That's good.

Wilkes: It's called Transformation. The kids named it that. It's about butterflies. I'll show you a picture. When I ask them where that came from, one of the boys said, "Well, there's always the chance to change and transform yourself." They're really profound also, if you listen to them and talk with these kids. Then we have another mural hanging in the DeVito Dialysis Clinic. That's a picture of it right there. Again, they gave the kids a reception. Self esteem only comes from one thing--accomplishment. When you're recognized, that really does boost their self esteem. We also have one hanging in the community development office of the City of Wilmington in the City building. The very latest public art, and I can show you this, too, is you're familiar with Poetry in Motion? It was in New York City and was maybe even international where they took famous poets and put their poetry up on buses and subways.

Hayes: I remember.

Wilkes: We loved that idea. Because we have so many good, creative writers and photographers, we worked out a deal with Wilmington Transit. We have a program called Poetry in Transit. It showcases and they've given us space where advertising space would be. It showcases a photographer and a poet. I can show you that.

Hayes: Has that started?

Wilkes: Yes. We're committed to the public art piece. It's also a way for the kids to give back to the community. When you're doing the trashcan for Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, we talk about what Mother Hubbard's Cupboard is. We talk about citizenship. We talk about giving back. When I say that our main goal is making creative and committed citizens, that's what we do.

Hayes: You said the third one was entrepreneur. Is that the visual arts or is that--?

Wilkes: That's kind of across the board, but more in the visual arts than anywhere else.

Hayes: Which is hoping to sell material?

Wilkes: The kids that are involved in this program actually go through an entrepreneurship training that is through the Junior Achievement program with financial literacy and all that stuff. These kids are poor. They need jobs. We'd like them not to be standing on the corner selling drugs. What do you do? You try to create an income stream. We had a photography show and new elements last year. We work with Kids Making It, which is a woodworking program. They have a gallery in Jacobi Warehouse. Kids design holiday cards. In fact, we just had a little ceremony. It's March, but anyway. They got checks anywhere from $5 to $50. We're hoping to grow this part of the program.

Hayes: The last question I wanted to ask you, which you kind of answered anyway would be: What's on the horizon? You've talked about being so flexible and have to keep changing. You must have another 10 ideas out there in the visual arts area.

Wilkes: I think what I mentioned earlier is the racheting up of the bar. Maybe we do less classes, but more intensely. I think that's kind of where we're headed.

Hayes: Are there new visual mediums that you want to try? You mentioned the metalsmith. Did you do some jewelry?

Wilkes: Yes, we have. There's nothing we don't do in the visual arts. We've done plaster cast sculpting. A lot of the teachers teach multi-medium. They're doing a lot of different mediums within one class.

Hayes: There's a possibility, if you haven't thought of this, there's nearby on Castle Street is a new glassblower.

Wilkes: No. We'll never do that. It's too dangerous.

Hayes: Okay.

Wilkes: Maybe if my very oldest kids--

Hayes: That's tough. You have to think about that.

Wilkes: Metalsmith with torches and stuff. We may get into that eventually.

Hayes: Even to tour it.

Wilkes: Yes, that would be really fun. We also do recycled art with found objects. The other thing that we've been doing recently is the visual artists have been doing a lot with the performing artists, creating sets, doing paintings for sets. That's kind of fun, because there's a lot of synergy that goes back and forth. Our graphic design kids design their CD. They make CDs and then they design the cover for their CDs.

Hayes: Thank you very much. I'm glad you came for this special 45 minutes. Congratulations.

Wilkes: It was fun.

Hayes: You have an excellent visual arts program.

Wilkes: Thanks so much.

Hayes: Thank you.

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