Wallace hopes to inspire with art at Hampton City Hall

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Ninety-year-old Betty Wallace of Hampton has been called a “Renaissance woman.”

There are those who would say she earned that title as an author, a retired teacher and an artist. But perhaps the title she wears most proudly is that of “people watcher.” Wallace said she often incorporate that element of her personality into her art.

Henry Arts Alliance President Lynna Schmidt (from left), Betty Wallace of Hampton and local artist Domini ReDarling welcomed the community to Hampton City Hall June 6 for the Arts Alliance’s Art in Unusual Places program. Photo by Jason A. Smith

“I like to watch people do the things they do, and if I see something funny, I’ll do it,” she said.

Wallace was all smiles June 6 at Hampton City Hall, where her art is currently on display as part of the Henry Arts Alliance’s Art in Unusual Places program.

Wallace was born in North Carolina and has maintained a fondness for art throughout her life. She attended Agnes Scott College and the University of Georgia before embarking on a career in education. Wallace taught second grade for 16 years atHampton Elementary School, before teaching gifted students across the county.

Wallace said she did so, in part, because of a desire to inspire young people. Still, she can recall a period in her life when she held back from pursuing her artistic endeavors.

“It took me a long time,” she said. “I thought people would laugh at me.”

However, after seeing the community’s response to her art at City Hall, she said it only makes her want to create more.

Wallace’s piece is one of 15 works on display in Hampton for Art in Unusual Places as part of a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts, said Henry Arts Alliance President Lynna Schmidt. The also features pieces at venues including Piedmont Henry Hospital, Cannon-Cleveland Funeral Directors in McDonough and Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, as well as students Hampton High School.

Local artist and former art teacher, Domini ReDarling, voiced high praised for Wallace’s ability to tell stories through her art. ReDarling described Wallace as her “muse” and said she appreciates the bond they share through their mutual love of art.

“We’ve just always connected through our art, and she inspires me,” said ReDarling. “She says I inspire her. I don’t know how I possibly could. That’s our love, so that’s what we enjoy doing.”

Wallace’s daughter Rebecca came all the way from Texas to be there for the artist’s big moment. Rebecca Wallace said in addition to working with scratchboard art, crayons and pastels, her mom has created more than 50 oil paintings over the years.

“A lot of her paintings, in the beginning, had a lot of religious overtones, some scenes from the Bible,” said Rebecca Wallace. “Those were her huge oils – I mean, massive.”

Pastor Brent White of Hampton United Methodist Church brought his family along to admire her art. White said the piece at City Hall is reminiscent of those by famed artist Pablo Picasso.

“It reminds me of a trip that I made to the Metropolitan in New York,” said White. “There was a special Picasso exhibit the one time that I’ve been there. When I look at it, I think of that kind of art.”

White met Wallace four years ago and said she creates pieces from a wide variety of artistic styles. Some of them, he noted, have been on display at his church.

“She’s got a studio at her house, and she’s got all kinds of beautiful art,” noted White. “In fact, at our church, she’s done a lot of biblical scenes, and we’ve used her art. We’ve shrunk it down and put it on the covers of church bulletins for Easter, Christmas ... various occasions like that.”

Schmidt added that Art in Unusual Places is about “celebrating the community” and inspiring young people. She is hopeful that bringing art from Wallace and others to City Hall will help her accomplish both.

“It’s kind of blown up on us, which is lovely, because I think the discovery of somebody like Ms. Betty is really a treasure,” said Schmidt. “You can take up art anytime you want. You may not be as brilliant as you think you should be or want to be, or you may not a Ms. Domini or Ms. Betty, but your art can be important to you, and it can be a place that you put your soul and your heart, and I think that’s important.”