Art of Hope: Where Dreams Come True in Wallace, NC

Art of Hope galleries and framing shops in Wallace and Clinton, NC are evidence of an impossible dream that came true for artist, Hope G. Smith. In the art business for 18 years, Hope has over 1000 paintings, two Art of Hope galleries, and work on display around the world. 

Hope grew up as an artist in a family of creatives and entrepreneurs. Though they have been helpful for her development as an artist and businesswoman, Hope was not encouraged to see art as a viable career early on. She pursued teaching for a more steady income but found herself writing her own business plan after just three years of teaching. In January 2004, she opened a studio out of her home and began the journey of entrepreneurship. “I taught private lessons, made my own art, and did custom framing,” Hope says. “I took on any job possible, and it just grew from there.” In the beginning, Hope went to shows, expos, and all sorts of events to get her work seen. She also kept expenses low by working from home. “Until you get on your feet,” she says, “working from home cuts the overhead.” 

With no formal business training of her own, Hope surrounded herself with a strong support system.

You need to know who you can trust to surround you. It should be a partnership where you help each other out–not just one benefitting from the other.

Hope G. Smith on business partnerships

Hope’s most important partnership is with her husband. He did the hard work of researching the business side of what she needed to do to make her dreams come true.

Two really are better than one if you let it be, but you have to work at it. It isn’t easy; it’s hard work.

Hope G. Smith about marriage

Hope’s artistic style has been described as whimsical, colorful, and loose. She tries to capture “the soul of the moment, not a photo-realistic portrayal of it”. Her art also incorporates Bible verses as an intentional attempt to be a positive light. “If we can be a light in whatever work we find ourselves in (mine is art), we should be one!”

Prints from selected originals are available for purchase within Art of Hope galleries and online. Some originals can be purchased as well as custom framing jobs at either location. Hope is also available for hire to do custom commissions and live wedding painting. 

Hope G. Smith is a founding member of the Downtown Wallace Merchant Association, and she is a strong advocate for the value of a healthy Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber is what visitors look at when they come to a new area. When a Chamber is healthy, it goes to businesses and supports them, it sends customers to them, and it shops locally for its own needs before it looks elsewhere. Good leadership is a partnership with business, and we support each other.

Hope G. Smith on the importance of a Chamber of Commerce

The Downtown Merchant Association works with the Chamber of Commerce to support downtown businesses and bring activities there like the semi-annual Shop Hop in April. This ticketed event includes lunch, coffee, free merchandise, and discounts at 15-20 downtown shops in Wallace, NC. Downtown Wallace is a thriving place with businesses that have been in operation there for many years. When asked about why small-town America is thriving with culture today, Hope’s answer was sincere. “People are hungry for a small-town community. Covid has taught us all that we need each other; we need community.” 

Hope doesn’t take for granted that she has been blessed to be in business as an artist for 18 years. “The art business isn’t easy. Sometimes you overwork and have to be willing to put in the hours that nobody sees. When you are doing what God has called you to do,” she says, “you are doing that thing that fills your soul. The money will follow after that. It is much harder to do something you don’t love, so pursue your passion and don’t feel guilty for doing something you love. We need to be able to embrace people for what they are, not necessarily the 9-5 boxes we want to put them in.”

A lot of people, over the years, have told Hope that they are not creative, but Hope looks at creativity much different. “Creativity breeds creativity,” she says. “People do it all the time and don’t realize it. Creativity is an important part of how we nurture humanity. It is when we aren’t nurturing others that problems arise in society.”

When she is not out painting in the community, Hope G. Smith can be found in one of her two galleries: Art of Hope in Wallace or Clinton, NC. She is also available online at hopegsmith.com.

Tracey Penrod: Acrylic and Mixed Media Artist, Downtown Goldsboro

Artist Profile by Rebecca Whitman

In the thriving arts district of Downtown Goldsboro, NC, there is an artist who sees the world in layers of light, color, and geometric shapes and translates her visions into masterpieces of paint and mixed media. This is the story of who she is, what inspires her, and how she became a full-time visual artist.

For Tracey Penrod, the question was never when did she see herself as an artist; the question was when did she not.

Growing up, creativity was nurtured by her mother (a teacher) and grandmother (a quilter). Tracey remembers enjoying dime store coloring books with watercolor brushes and embedded paint in the pages. Those early watercolor experiences became a lasting influence on her creative voice; many have said her work reflects a watercolor effect without the application of watercolor.

She laughs at the memory of “Patch the Pony”: an early poster figuring out how to make mixed media work using glued food on a horse. Tracey still sits in wonder under the memory of her grandmother’s quilt frame. She remembers the square, rectangle, and circle shapes raising a canopy of filtered light over where she played as a child. These shapes left such a deep impression that they are a feature replicated in many of her works today.

Creativity wasn’t the only thing that Tracey learned growing up in rural North Carolina; she also learned the value of order and cleanliness. Her mother set a standard of excellence for her home that was hard to live up to at the time but, in the long run, prepared Tracey for successful work habits as an artist.

“I was the sloppy teenager leaving messes in my room and stuffing stuff under my bed to clean up when I was told to….Now I can see how disorganization hindered my art and how taking the time to organize makes me able to see my supplies and work quickly in the studio now.”

Tracey Penrod

Take a peek inside her studio…

Such an inspiring childhood would seem like a fertile soil for translation into art as a business, but it didn’t work that way. Like so many artist stories, Tracey didn’t know what opportunities were available to her as an artist in business when she graduated high school. That lack of information and vision caused her to pursue career paths in college that were close to her calling but not actually in them. She started pursuing being an art teacher then switched to Commercial Art and Advertising Design.

Then the doubts settled in–the same doubts we have all heard at some point or another in our artistic careers–the doubts that say: What am I doing? There’s no money in this! Nobody in my small corner of the world is going to pay me to do this! I need to just go find a real job and let this just be some hobby thing for me.

Those doubts made Tracey feel like it was a waste of time to pursue a career in art, so she gave up on creativity and chose what seemed logical at the time: a career in teaching. In 1999, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Middle Grades Education: Social Studies and English Language Arts. From 2000 to 2021, Tracey devoted herself to her teaching career and spoke life into the hearts of many young people.

Teaching children was both rewarding and challenging for the artist heart of Tracey. While she loved being able to make a difference, the effort took all her energy and left little to give back to herself for her own creative work. Nevertheless, Tracey began to see the need to purposefully pursue her art while she was still in her teaching career. From 2012 to her teaching retirement in 2021, she allowed her teaching career to be her bridge job transitioning her to a full-time artist career.

During those bridge years, Tracey took advantage of opportunities to elevate her level of mastery in her craft and grow in her business acumen. She challenged herself to create professional quality work, learn how to frame with exhibition-level standards, enter local art shows, and get her work seen by a larger audience. She attended workshops and artistic events both locally and abroad including Gathering of Artisans in western North Carolina. She learned new techniques and how to apply professional finishes like cold wax to her work. She continues to gather inspiration from other artists on podcasts and Instagram.

You never stop learning; however, the time spent on mastery of one’s craft can’t be undervalued. It took Tracey over 20 years to step into her calling as a Christian artist, but her customers would tell you that the time spent in mastery was not wasted. What she can offer clients now sets Tracey apart from hobbyists and drives clients to her that are expressly wanting professional work. In fact, ownership of a Tracey Penrod original is considered a privilege for most of us. While those 20 years in the desert of another career felt a lot like striving to be an artist, they led to where Tracey is in business today.

For more about her business and the advice she would give other artists today including her top 4 Spotify Podcasts recommendations, don’t miss our companion article on Friday at The Bohemian Princess Journal. If you have been a client or colleague of Tracey Penrod, please take a moment to comment below and share how her art and work partnership has been a blessing to you. If you would like to connect with Tracey Penrod, visit her website, Facebook, Instagram, or studio.

The Forgotten Field in Morganton, NC

2014-04-25 12.10.50In a little corner of the mountains of western Carolina, lies a field of the forgotten. These were once mothers, daughters, sisters, and sons. They were somebody’s friend, somebody’s family member, somebody’s…somebody. Today, they are just numbers along a rusted chain. Tags along a line that are nearly completely faded into history. Once in a while, a stone leaves a more lasting impression. This stone, in particular, broke me. Beneath the words of names and dates, it remembers the person as an artist.

Here lies an artist.

It has not always been cool, especially in the place this stone lies, to be an artist. Cast down, abused, medicated, they were often treated like the rejects of society because they saw the world a little differently. When I see this stone, I think about how many things have changed and how many things have stayed the same.

This final resting place is part of a much older and sadder story.

Mountain people are particularly gifted in textile trades. Wood carvings, furniture making, basket weaving, and loom tapestry weaving were marketable skills passed down amongst them for generations. In the early 1900s, western North Carolina was a booming place for furniture and upholstery. The generations of talent in making housewares by hand now turned to factories and annual market sales. The trade continues to thrive for generations there and bring in buyers from around the world.

But one other thing set up roots in Morganton, NC: Broughton Hospital. In the early days of mental health, a series of brick buildings connected into a beautiful castle. It was one of the largest hospitals for the mentally ill and people were sent there from all over. I imagine people were amazed by the beauty of the place and left their loved ones there easily. But not everything that happened in mental health medicine at that time was good, kind, or ethical. In fact, it was quite common for families to be so embarrassed by mentally ill family members that they would either hide them away in “disappointment rooms” in their homes or send them to places like this.

Over time, parts of the hospital closed down, and only a small section of it remains in use today. The old castle bits have wasted away almost completely. All that remains are a few condemned buildings across from the forgotten field like this one. 2014-04-25 12.14.59 Windows broken by ivy vines and basement boiler rooms full of shoes and old tin cans are the only signs of life here now.

2014-04-25 12.20.03

I wonder what stories this place could tell.

What lessons would we learn from their mistakes? What acts of kindness would warm our hearts and inspire us? What horrors would make us sleepless at night?

We can learn from the past–and I hope we all do–to be better people today. Enjoy your life and strive to understand the people in your world, especially family. Forgive them, love them, and make the most of your time with them.