Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2013

When Hilda Gray was a child she’d watch her mother crochet, but when a young Hilda tried to repeat what she’d seen it didn’t turn out quite like her mother’s masterpieces. Gray has now mastered the craft and is teaching others. Many of her original pieces were on display at Waterworks Visual Arts Center as part of an exhibition of artwork created by the New Tomorrows program participants.
A reception and viewing was held at the center Tuesday for Gray and the other 18 participants. The artists created 80 pieces of ceramic, wire sculptures, paintings, pencil drawings and other creative items that are for sale at the gallery. The proceeds benefits the artists. The artwork will be at the center, 123 E. Liberty St., through June 27.
The New Tomorrows Program teaches life skills classes to those who stay at the Rowan Helping Ministries shelter and need a place to go on weekday mornings. The classes include food preparation and interviewing skills. Students met twice a month for two hours of visual art instruction and were introduced to a variety of art media.
Gray said she also taught herself a few other crocheting techniques by checking out books from the public library. She doesn’t use a pattern, but instead looks at objects and just starts crocheting until it looks like her desired object. She had several items on display including hats, toys, pillows and bibs.
“I’m a walker. I walk by a store and say ‘I’m going to try that,’ “ she said.
The Brooklyn, NY native has lived in North Carolina for more than 20 years. She came to be in the New Tomorrows program through the shelter where she stayed last year. Her husband left her and Gray eventually found herself homeless.
Gray said her son tried to help her, but nothing seemed to work out.
“I said to him, ‘leave it in the hands of God,’ “ Gray said.
She has now found housing and is looking forward to beginning a job at a local daycare center.
Gray is thankful for the New Tomorrows program, she said, because the program and the people helped her while she was going through a difficult time in her life. The program was also a form of escape.
“Doing the crocheting was very relaxing and it took my mind off my problems,” Gray said.
Rowan Helping Ministries staff, supporters and board members were in attendance at the reception.
Tina Zollars was always interested in any type of art — painting, sculpting and drawing. She immersed herself in the classes and hopes to become a “famous artist” or fashion designer one day, Zollars said.
She’s only taken art classes in high school, but found herself getting better as the years passed. Zollars has been drawing since she was five years old.
She loved the art classes at WaterWorks saying “anything I can learn about art — I love.”
It’s laughable to John Steele to think someone could potentially buy some of his artwork. Steele, who is a Salisbury native, was always good at reading and writing, but art was not his strength.
“I never thought someone would see value in it. It’s incredible. It’s the most unlikely thing to have art on display,” he said of his art.
He found instructor, Ingrid Erickson, motivating. He said he received gentle prodding from Erickson and was able to create some great pieces.
Erickson is the education coordinator at WaterWorks and taught the art class for the New Tomorrows program. The classes included art history and the participants were able to relate the art and artists to their own experiences.
“It was a really meaningful experience for me as a teacher, getting to know them through their artwork,” Erickson said.
For more information about the art exhibition and WaterWorks visit

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: Facebook: