With a Masters in Teaching Visual Art, Ginger moved to North Carolina from Seattle and found herself in need of a reinvention of sorts. Asheville’s limited job market and limited arts funding in schools made finding a teaching job difficult for someone with her expertise. On top of that, she and her husband were in the beginning of raising a family. Out of her necessity and inspiration, Ginger created an arts program that as an Asheville resident myself, can tell you has generated a social movement of sorts.
That is what makes Ginger our October Woman to Watch.
“There was a lot going on (arts) for people visiting Asheville, in terms of workshops, but there wasn’t a lot happening for our direct community,” she shared with me, and added that her creation of Roots & Wings was born out of three lenses – artist – educator – parent.
She saw a need and was underscored as she watched her own children develop.
“I was discovering how much potential they had, and because we’re all so busy it’s easy to have that potential sit down low, and I wanted to create a space that would allow kids as young as three rise to that potential, and have those expectations be higher than average, and they can do it.”
Roots & Wings began with a preschool inside of a church and quickly expanded to classes and summer camps hosted at schools and other community spaces. I’ve watched her grow and my own children have gone to several of her programs. From experience, what I can tell you is that it goes beyond an art class. Children learn how to reach inside and illustrate their souls in a way that is unique.
Through some business coaching and development, Ginger says she implemented a plan to grow her space with relatively low overhead as she found host locations like churches and schools, but her end goal was always to have a place of her own. That came to fruition a couple of years ago when a building became available.
After much sweat equity and navigating complicated city regulations, Ginger opened the Roots & Wings Creative Campus, which offers a Visual Arts Preschool, after school Community Design Lab and intergenerational classes for children and adults.
“It was always one of our goals to have it be a multi-generation institution, and even some cross over – it’s also just as important to work with people that are 133. To me it’s a lifetime. Creativity is something we should celebrate throughout our lifetime and it gets harder as it gets older.”
She now employs 19 people and serves almost 200 families year-round and more than 500 children during the summer.
I asked her to reflect on what she’s accomplished and she admitted that it’s hard for her to always take the time to appreciate it, which I believe is true for many women. She finally said –
“I would hope we’ve left a mark. I’m getting better at allowing myself to see that and that’s a personal growth thing for me. When I see a family that was there from the very beginning –
When I see those kids and families and in the middle of a restaurant will give me hugs and talk about how much Roots & Wings meant to them – that’s a huge gift – but there’s so much I want to do,” she shared.
And it was all born out of a need she saw in her community, and in her own life as she looked for flexible work that would help support her family.
Her advice for others ….
“Don’t be afraid to take a risk, when it seems like what society tells you do is impossible. And also the value of relationships. The idea that it takes a village – and none of this would be happening without that. You have to gather the people around you that you know will support and encourage you and you have to believe you can do it,” she said.
”As for what she’s doing now, Ginger is getting back to her roots, working on her own art pieces again in her preferred mediums of chalk and collage.
She’s also got her sights set on greater change within the schools through programs and professional development for teachers.
“I have such a desire to connect people all over the world – through creativity – and I have a gift of translating stories from myself, helping a community facilitate that idea of translating their stories.”
We’re proud to say that Roots & Wings is facilitating a group art project at this year’s North Carolina Women’s Summit.