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Local Artist inspires others by following his dreams

Black artist creates many firsts, including having his work displayed inside a NC Courthouse.
Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 9:50 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A local artist is making history one painting at a time, with many of his pieces displayed in historic places and of prominent people.

Richard Wilson followed his dreams and pursued an art career.

His work is documented throughout the country and earns him an additional title of Black history maker.

In the Edgecombe County Courthouse, you’ll see a painting from 2005 that made Richard Wilson the first Black artist to have a painting displayed inside a North Carolina Courthouse, inspiring young artists everywhere.

Wilson also painted the first oil portrait on display at the Pitt County Courthouse of the late Earl Brown.

You can see Wilson’s work in a lot of different places and of History makers themselves.

Wilson painted baseball legend Hank Aaron, and in 2016, the legendary hall of fame baseball player invited Wilson to his home and signed that original painting.

Local Artist painted baseball legend Hank Aaron
Local Artist painted baseball legend Hank Aaron(WITN)

Hank Aaron also commissioned him to do more work for his family, and Wilson had also planned to paint a second portrait of Hank Arron.

The baseball great died at 86 earlier this year before Wilson could paint the second piece.

But Wilson’s artwork lives on through Hank Aaron’s portrait and in many places. One painting appeared in the Wall Street Journal, and his artwork is visible on the big screen in movies like Barber Shop.

Richard Wilson had a painting featured in the Wall Street Journal.
Richard Wilson had a painting featured in the Wall Street Journal.(WITN)

Wilson lists celebrities, such as Beyonce’s mother, Tina Knowles, as a client.

He was selected by Blue Moon Beer as one of the 20 up-and-coming artists and had his submission piece was on the label of the lager sold country wide.

Wilson was asked back in 2005 to complete a portrait of George Henry White to hang in the Edgecombe County Courthouse, the last former slave to serve in Congress.

It is that work that solidifies Wilson’s place in history and his work now continues tp affirms his decision to follow his dreams, quit his teaching job, and become an artist full-time.

Richard Wilson painted the George Henry White portrait that is in the Edgecombe County...
Richard Wilson painted the George Henry White portrait that is in the Edgecombe County Courthouse.(WITN)

Wilson used to be a full-time professor at Pitt Community College, painting in his free time.

The little boy represents the uncertainties of Wilson’s future while the little girl confirms that this path is his calling.

The little boy represents the uncertainties of Wilson’s future while the little girl confirms...
The little boy represents the uncertainties of Wilson’s future while the little girl confirms that this path is his calling.(WITN)

Wilson says the first show he did after leaving his teaching job made him more money than teaching for a whole year.

He now travels the country participating in art shows and talking to students.

A senior art student at ECU says she was inspired by Wilson’s story after seeing a study that says only 1% of Black artists are recognized in the top museums in the country.

Wilson hopes his story and life can inspire others.

Wilson’s work is also displayed in the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the show, “This is Us.”

Wilson says all the girls that are in his paintings, are modeled after his daughters and all the boys he paints are his nephews.

This story is part of WITN’s celebration of Black History Month.

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