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Hilary Wallis is Artfully AWARE.

July 28, 2010

Hilary Wallis is Artfully AWARE.

By Laura Grebb

May Day

A few weeks ago a friend of mine recommended I attend Artfully AWARE (AfA), non-profit art event, founded by Hilary Wallis in 2007. Artfully AWARE? Artfully AWARE’s mission is to further the use of arts of all medium (drama, dance, music, media and visual arts) as a tool for individual and community empowerment in societies world wide. After reading the invite, I knew I had to attend. Not only am I an artist representative but I’m a supporter of raising money for a great cause and I was all for it.


I have to ask, what inspired “May Day”?

I painted this while living in Berlin for two years. Every May 1st, Berlin and other European capitols face a day of riots in anti-capitalist sentiment. On this particular day, I witnessed the troops come out, but they were more overwhelmed by street musicians and pro peace supporters.


Arriving at The Moore Brothers Wine Shop in Union Square, I walked upstairs and was immediately greeted with a smile, tickets for raffles and a glass of wine personally handed to me by one of the Moore Brothers. As my eyes bounced around from one piece of moving artwork to another, my eyes settled upon a picture portraying a family working in their crops created by a young child. Each creative piece was full of character, flowing with emotion, portraying a touching story. Along with artworks by young children, there were beautiful handcrafted jewelry pieces spread about ranging from bracelets to delicate swirling artistic gold earrings. I also came across really detailed and inspiring paintings of women on really nice postcards. Little did I know this was Hilary’s artwork.


A week later, Hilary and I met for coffee and this was one of the best conversations of my life. She has so much drive, passion, dedication, will and determination, all which I portray as well. Along with pursuing Artfully AWARE, Hilary also shares an undying passion for painting. She’s had various group and solo shows world wide and is soon starting a series of paintings for her next show which I plan to post once finished!

Your paintings are so real feeling, full of soft detail. These women in Mozambiques-Beauty really tell a story. Is there a little story?

This is a piece that I created in January of 2010 while living in Paris. It is about a group of women I spent time with in a small community in rural Mozambique 3 years ago during a Hunger Project Investors’ trip.

When did you become interested in art?

I presume I became interested in art when I realized I didn’t enjoy reading as much as I was fascinated with learning how to create 2 dimensional forms from real life. I would sit for hours and hours as a child attempting to paint things that I saw – things that I imagined.

Mother Earth

Do you recall your first painting? What was it about and what does it symbolize?

My first real painting is of a red barn and brightly colored autumn leaves. It symbolizes the moment I felt I accomplished something, which was completing a piece of work about a place I had never been to. Yet, I could make it appear to be real. I still have the painting.

What’s the meaning behind Mother Earth?

I created this painting in 2005 for CARE Netherlands’ Millennium Development Goals advocacy campaign. It is about preserving our environment and taking care of it. This was inspired by the month I spent in Vietnam many years ago.

Which moments have you been influenced by?

I’m constantly influenced by my travels. I escape to other countries as often as I can, and it’s during those trips that I meet incredible people, explore foreign environments, taste unusual food and admire how all of my senses are heightened. It’s almost always the citizens of developing countries that most impress me with their strength and their resilience. For the last several years, I have mainly focused on capturing pieces of their lives and the beauty of the places they reside.

What do you enjoy most about working in this medium?

Painting in oil on linen canvas allows me to experiment with the use of colors, brush techniques and the way the subject matter forms layer by layer in stages. I usually paint 5 –6 layers for each picture, which takes up to several weeks or a month for completion. There is no other sensation like the way a hog or sable brush hits a canvas with rich paint on its end. Acrylic or watercolor does not give me such joy.

What is your greatest ambition as a painter?

My greatest ambition is to inspire and provide the same opportunities for other potential artists. This is the reason I founded my non profit, Artfully AWARE. If I can use my paintings to tell compassionate stories about communities, our environment and important issues of today – then I feel I am one step closer to advocating and propelling people to educate themselves on these issues their neighbors around the world face. Once they are informed, they are more likely to understand these communities’ need for arts education, skills training and arts programs that provide empowerment, healing psycho-social benefits and hope.

Finally, any advice for those following your footsteps or starting to research your line of work?

My advice would be to become more aware of what is around us. Don’t just do art for art’s sake. Do it because it is meaningful and it can matter. Art is not about being the best or becoming famous and elitist. It’s about being one of the lucky souls who can show an audience sensitivity, elegance, respect and an alternative way to interpret what life has dealt us.

What does “Finding a Different Direction” represent?

This is dedicated to the women and children of Ethiopia. I traveled there just over 2 years ago, and while I found them to be suffering from a lot of inequalities, they remained warm and highly optimistic.

Finding a Different Direction

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