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Artist with local ties feels “love” from community

“Daddy’s Home” is one of the pieces of Jim Hill’s artwork on display at the South Carolina Artisans Center. His work will be on display through the end of March. Photo by Christie Slocum

The South Carolina Artisans Center is home base to many local artists. A place they can show not only their artwork but also sell it. Occasionally, the center comes across a story of an artist that is not from South Carolina but has South Carolina ties. This has recently happened with artist Jim Hill, a mosaic artist who grew up far from here and was told never to come to South Carolina. Luckily, for everyone, Hill did not obey his mother’s warning.
Hill has a fascinating story to tell. As a young boy growing up in the inner city of New York, he could not afford art supplies. He would search through people’s discarded items and pull out colored papers from magazines, books, wrapping paper and any scrap of colorful paper he could find. He collected until he had enough to create a new piece of art. He would cut the paper into little pieces and then form them into a picture, a mosaic made out of paper.
As he aged, he gained employment as a fashion model, but it still did not satisfy his calling. He wanted to be a “helper.” He wanted to give back to the communities he grew up in, where the impoverished lived. He could have pulled himself away. As an adult, he had the means to do so. He chose to stay and to care for the less fortunate. He began opening and operating homeless shelters in Brooklyn. He was always curious about his roots. His mother had lived in Walterboro in the 1930s and 1940s. Like many other black ladies during this time in history, she worked for a family. Also, like many others, she became the victim of sexual abuse. When many others were leaving the south and heading to New York looking for a better future, she saw her opportunity to leave her past behind and start a new, which is what she did. She also spent the rest of her years warning her children never to come to Walterboro. For her, it only held terrible memories and heartache.
He could not push away the feeling of wanting to know his mother’s history. He decided to visit Walterboro and make a few contacts here. He was surprised to be so welcomed. He was invited to share his story at the Colleton County Museum and to display his art at the South Carolina Artisans Center. “I am so impressed with Jim Hill and his lifelong work as an artist, educator, philanthropist, and humanitarian. I was also overwhelmed to hear his mother’s horrific account of Walterboro from when she lived here. I was relieved to hear Jim when he said he was glad he came to research his mother’s past as he said he had had a much different experience as he has felt a lot of love here,” said Kristin Mumford, Executive Director for the South Carolina Artisans Center.
Hill now lives in Atlanta, where he is striving to open another homeless shelter. He has created hundreds of pieces of art in which he hopes to sell so he can see the shelter open. Each of his pieces tells a story, a part of history. Some are currently on display at the South Carolina Artisans Center, located at 318 Wichman Street in Walterboro, through the end of March.

Christie Slocum (595 Posts)