Heather Delisle and the Hillsborough Arts Council
April 23, 2018
I was born in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada in 1972 where my parents, Howard and Nancy Parks, lived for a few years after my father earned a degree in photography from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. My family relocated to central Pennsylvania where I grew up on a homestead and my father became a master timber framer and woodworker. Art was always part of my life: taking summer watercolor lessons from a local artist when I was seven years old, attending show openings at local colleges and galleries with my parents, taking almost all of the painting, drawing, photography, stained glass, and jewelry making classes offered at my high school, to being voted most artistic in 1991 by my senior class. After taking a gap year, where I worked as a nanny in Westchester County, New York, I attended Berea College in Berea, KY. Berea College is a liberal arts college which does not charge tuition in exchange for its students working for the college’s work-study program. After my freshman year assignment in the Admissions Office, I worked in the Ceramic Apprenticeship Program for three years where I learned to make functional pottery. In 1996, I graduated with a BA in studio art with an emphasis in ceramics. I unofficially minored in business (I was one credit shy) as I took a variety of elective classes in the Business Department: accounting, consumer behavior and marketing. I knew that making art is only part of the equation of making a living as an artist. I found out that my analytical left brain needed as much nurturing as my creative right brain. I also find it ironic that I majored in ceramics as it was the only high school art course that I never took.
While in college, I worked two summers as a ceramic instructor at an all-boys camp near Brevard, NC. During my second summer, I met my future husband, Jayson Delisle, who was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Upon graduating from Berea College, I moved to Asheville, NC where I worked at New Morning Gallery. I wanted to work in a gallery to see the business side of the arts and crafts world. I was also a studio assistant for an artist who hand-painted tiles. At the end of my year in Asheville, Jayson graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and was offered a job in Chapel Hill, so I moved east. We first rented a house in northern Chatham County where our wonderful landlord bought material so we could renovate a storage building into my first studio. For two years I worked temporary jobs at UNC-Chapel Hill. One of my assignments was with the Curriculum of Comparative Literature where in 1999 I accepted a full-time position as their office manager. It was a wonderful time for me and an important part of my personal growth but the studio gathered dust. At the end of 2001, we moved to Hillsborough where the studio remained in boxes for a couple more years. In 2003, I continued my ceramic education with classes at Claymakers in Durham and set up my studio again in the basement of our West Hillsborough home. I started attending both the Clayworks Potters Guild and Triangle Potters Guild’s monthly meetings. Around the same time, I was looking for an arts community in Hillsborough. In 2004, I started attending the Hillsborough Arts Council’s monthly meetings in a small room above Tupelos Restaurant. In the beginning, I would help out with events as needed: selling tickets to movies at the Masonic Lodge, setting up at Last Fridays and Parlor Concerts, etc.
2005 was a busy year as I left my full-time job at UNC-Chapel Hill. Six years had already flown by and I realized another six could easily do the same. With the support of my husband, I left a secure job to pursue my artwork and become fully emerged in our local arts community. I was juried into the Orange County Artists Guild and started participating in their Annual Open Studio Tour. As relationships continued to build I was able to find galleries to sell my decorative tiles and sculptures. In 2006, I started a two-year term as co-president for the Clayworks Potters Guild. I also was one of the founding members of the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts which continues to be a cooperative artist-run gallery in downtown. In 2005, I served on the Hillsborough Arts Councils Board and was the Council’s secretary from 2007 through 2008. In 2008, I was hired for a time-limited position as the Executive Director of the Hillsborough Arts Council. It was an exciting time of growth for the Council under the Chairmanship of Tinka Jordy who moved the Council from a small space within the Artists Cooperative to its first storefront location next to the fire station on South Churton Street.
In 2008 and 2009, I helped organize and structure the vendor aspect of the outdoor Last Fridays events held during the last Friday of each month from April through September. Last Fridays started as an organic event with the Council hiring a band to perform at the Old Courthouse and artists and organizations from the community would set up booths and tables for the evening. When vendors started to hang out mid-afternoon and jostle for booth space, it was decided it was time to organize the event like a festival with assigned spaces, rules, regulations, etc. This task kept my left brain happy. It has been nice to see the Last Fridays event grow and become an integral part of our community whether it was community members enjoying the music or bring people downtown or helping a restaurant make its monthly rent in those early years. The end of 2009 brought a big change for me personally with the birth of our son Grayson who attended many Arts Council meetings with me in his early years.
Back in 2006, I saw that there was a need to promote the visual arts in Hillsborough and thought an art walk would be a nice complement to the Art Council’s successful Last Fridays events. I took inspiration from Raleigh‘s First Fridays Art Walk and the Chapel Hill / Carrboro’s Second Fridays Art Walk. The first Last Fridays Art Walk was held on April 2006 with a simple map of businesses downtown and at Daniel Boone village which sold and displayed regional artwork. Churton Street Realty sponsored the Art Walk in those early years before a small participation fee was charged. Churton Street Realty along with the Hillsborough Artists Cooperative and The Skylight Gallery were some of the first venues with a rotating exhibit space in downtown. The Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce has continued Churton Street Realty’s tradition by using their front foyer as a gallery. Since 2011 the Last Fridays Art Walk is held eleven months each year with its short season running in conjunction with the outdoor Last Fridays event. It has been rewarding to see the Art Walk grow and evolve over the years to become a destination event for people from Greensboro to Raleigh. I was honored to organize the Hillsborough Art Walk Last Fridays for twelve years and I know that the Hillsborough Arts Council will continue to support the Art Walk as it showcases the diverse venues and the talented artists who make Hillsborough a unique and vibrant community.
A lot has changed since I attended my first Arts Council meeting in 2004. The diversity of the arts within Hillsborough is inspiring - from the galleries and studios, the musical events, the writers, and the culinary offerings. I hope that in the future our community will grow with even more creative energy and more venues for performances and arts education. May that creative spark within all of us shine a light upon our future and continue to make our little town of Hillsborough a cherished place to call home. Thank you for letting me be part of that journey.
2013-17 Webmaster for the Hillsborough Arts Council
2008 Founding Board Member of Carolina Culture Zone
2008 Executive Director of the Hillsborough Arts Council
2007-08 Secretary for the Hillsborough Arts Council
2006-17 Founder and Committee Chair of the Hillsborough Art Walk Last Fridays
2006-08 Co-President of the Clayworks Potters Guild
2006-08 Founding Member of the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts
2005-09 Walkable Hillsborough Coalition Volunteer
2005-08 Board Member of the Hillsborough Arts Council
2005-Present Orange County Artists Guild Member
2004 Started attending the Hillsborough Arts Council’s Monthly Meetings and Volunteering