Camel City Creates: Artist Tammy Willard Paints Social Justice and Light



Artist Tammy Willard grew up in nearby King, NC, but you’ll find her these days at Studios@625 on Trade Street in the downtown Arts District. She works primarily in alcohol ink and experiments in mixed media, using her design skills to create complex pieces using different substrates such as aluminum, acrylic, and vinyl.

Much of her current work revolves around political or social justice themes. “I never address a specific political issue directly, creating instead a visual narrative that resides in the collective emotion of my community,” said Tammy. “I believe this emotion is an integral part of understanding our own historical context. We may know all the events that build to create a tragedy or a success in our society, but without wrestling with and interpreting the emotion that motivated the event, we will fail to prevent tragedies or repeat successes. I want to create conversation pieces that create a reflection in viewers. I believe artists create a conversation; conversation creates action and action creates change.”

Always interested in art, her confidence grew when she began working in graphic design and spent a decade in the custom sign industry. “That was a great run, and when it came to an end, I was feeling a bit lost on my next steps,” explained Tammy. “My husband, David, took a half-joking comment I made about a studio downtown and started making moves. In a whirlwind, we had signed a lease agreement with the folks at Studios@625. He took me right up to the edge of my biggest fears and dreams, and just pushed me right off the cliff! I couldn’t be more grateful for his belief in me. He’s the reason I have this season of creativity.”

Studios@625 is one of the oldest working studio spaces in Winston-Salem. The collective artist studio was founded by Marianne DiNapoli-Mylet and Alan Miller in 1995. It’s a great space – eclectic, messy, sometimes loud, sometimes Zen and ever-evolving. The best time to visit is during the First Friday Gallery Hops each month, during which they often also host musicians and poets.

“Although I typically find myself working on heavy topics, I also do commissions and am currently focusing on a series of light, searching for what it means in a literal and mystical sense. I’m exploring with some materials common to the sign industry to create that illusion of light in my pieces. I don’t know exactly where this study is going to take me, but I do understand that light and hope are essential for happiness and progression. It’s not enough to combat darkness — something needs to replace it.”

This month you can find Tammy’s paintings at Studios@625, at the DADA Member Gallery at the Benton Convention Center and McNeely Gallery on 6th Street with a reception April 6th in the exhibit “Into the Light – A Ruby Sister Production.” In June her work will be shown at Dye Pretty Salon and Gallery on Trade Street with a reception June 1st.

Tammy received Honorable Mention at the Bookmarks/Art for Art’s Sake (AFAS) collaboration, has been a juried exhibitor for an Associated Artists of Winston-Salem (AAWS) show and was a Featured Guest Artist at Gateway Gallery last summer. Tammy recently began volunteering with City With Dwellings, which operates overflow homeless shelters in our city. There she engages with the homeless to create art while they also work to secure housing and participate in group therapy. “There are so many in our community who use art to help others. That’s what I want to be remembered for,” said Tammy. She is an artist member of Associated Artists of Winston-Salem, DADA, and Art for Arts Sake.

Learn more about Tammy Willard and her art at tbwillard-artwork.com, follow her work on Facebook at “Tammy Baldwin Willard Paintings+” and on Instagram at tbwillard.

Camel City Creates is a monthly column of Forsyth Womanmagazine featuring talented creative women in our community.


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