The new director looks forward to resuming classes and events at the GH Cultural Arts Center

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Denise Wilson, the new director of the Grove Hill Cultural Arts Center, is shown with some of her work.

Denise Wilson is an artist who loves all art forms and she hopes to pass that love on to the community as the new director of the Grove Hill Cultural Arts Center.

The center, with Studio 122 at this address on Main Street, has been without a full-time manager for some time. That, added to the reduction in activities due to the coronavirus pandemic, has slowed activities down, but Wilson intends to liven things up and make the place active and vibrant again.

“I want to draw attention to the Cultural Arts Center, this building and the arts, all art forms,” she said.

Wilson, from Pine Hill, teaches Friday art at Wilson Hall Middle School. She said there were talented student artists there and that they, as well as adults, needed to be encouraged and given the opportunity to develop their talents.

She said that art is not limited to drawing and painting, but to all forms of creativity – theater, music, singing, writing and more. She wants to restore the arts programs and activities that were once popular at the center.

Wilson enjoys painting but says she hasn’t always been an artist. Yet her mother, Shirley Porter, was an artist and a unique person, described as a “free spirit” by her daughter.

Her mother was originally from Pine Hill but lived in Brooklyn, NY, where Denise grew up. She brought her children back to Alabama after a divorce in 1983 and raised them well as a single mother. Denise attended Alabama A&M University in Montgomery where she majored in Marketing. She married John Henry Wilson Jr. in 1993 and they have two grown sons.

Her mother had cancer and Wilson was her babysitter for two years before she passed away in 2010.

Wilson admitted that she was overwhelmed with grief and depressed. She and her husband had moved into her mother’s house and one day, while searching the attic, she found her mother’s paints and brushes. Inspired, she decided to give it a try.

“My mother was an artist, but I had never tried to paint,” she said. “Suddenly, however, it was like I was drawn to my mother’s brushes. When I painted, it was like my mother was leaving me something, so I wouldn’t be so depressed. She was painting through me!

Her family and friends encouraged her and she has been painting ever since and sharing her enthusiasm with anyone who wants to listen to her and have a go!

She has taught art classes at the Thomasville Retirement Home, the Boys and Girls Club, the Grove Hill Elementary School After-School Program and now Wilson Hall Middle School.

Now she wants to help the community at large through the arts center.

“I’m so lucky to be able to have this job, to do what I love,” she said.

She’s already planning events – a book signing by an author who grew up in Grove Hill in December and “old school swing dance” lessons given by a friend in Mobile.

The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. Friday hours are different as she teaches art at Wilson Hall Middle School on Friday mornings.

She urges everyone to watch the newspaper for announcements and also check the centre’s Facebook page.

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