As an admirer of her paintings for many years, the opportunity to sit with and talk to Vickie was like visiting an old friend while learning so much about her interesting life…
What inspired you or led you to your current career?
I started painting at 5 years old in kindergarten and my teacher told my mom that I would be an artist. I sold my first painting in junior high to my teacher, and prior to that, I always gave my paintings away. My grandmother always wanted me to paint for her. I taught art at the high school level for 32 years in Orlando and then in Gwinnett County. Prior to that, as a starving artist, I went to a screen printing company in Orlando and worked with film in a darkroom. Then I learned type setting and the other parts of the business, and eventually, working with art. I met a customer who marketed items to gift shops and wanted to start his own business. Even better, he wanted to hire me to paint. I worked there for eight years. I learned how to run the business and all facets of it. My dream then became to own my own screen printing company and in 1986, I opened “Artist at Heart,” where I went to various businesses and took orders for screen printed items. I had one helper and eventually moved to a business location with eight employees. I learned that owning your own business doesn’t necessarily mean a great living. I was married to a police officer, had one child and one on the way, when my husband left me and we divorced.
I sold my company and went back to college to be certified to teach special education specializing in the arts. I had been teaching at a last-stop school in Florida. It was a very rough school and I saw things I had never imagined before. It was a great lesson in managing and getting along with kids.
Everything that I did throughout the years was to be able to survive as an artist. Initially, I didn’t like teaching but learned to like it. I remarried four years later, to the love of my life, and we moved to Atlanta.
I taught art at Collins Hill High School for 14 years and was named Teacher of the Year in 1998, but decided that I wanted to get away from teaching so I returned to college and got my MBA. I opened a screen print shop within the school and the kids who worked it were special needs kids. I taught them production, sales and delivery. My husband died suddenly at 46. I got my regular education certification and worked at Central Gwinnett until retirement. I still have students who keep in touch with me on social media.
In 2010, I helped start the North Gwinnett Arts Association with Alan Zarter as a nonprofit and we went from 20 to 150 members in no time. The city of Suwanee played a huge part in our success and supported us greatly, especially Denise Brinson. I was also on the Public Arts Commission. In 2008, the management company of Town Center let us display our art in empty storefronts and this gave us great exposure. We began to sell our art. We took over the art festival and started fundraising with the annual car show where we hosted Clark Howard as our speaker. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and so I retired from teaching.
I recently opened an art studio in the Tannery Building in Buford.
What is your favorite restaurant in Suwanee?
Cracker Barrel. My mom loved it there, too, and it is pretty good home-cooked food.
How long have you worked or lived in Suwanee?
What has kept you here?
My friends and family.
How big is your family?
I have two sons and five grandchildren.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in Suwanee?
Denise Brinson at the City of Suwanee.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Scotland, England, Paris and Italy.
What is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
What advice would you give a crowd of people?
Don’t waste a moment of your life because it is far too short. Definitely don’t spend the time you have on negativity.
What is something on your bucket list?
To meet a good friend and companion with whom to spend the rest of my life.
If you could take anyone to lunch (dead or alive) who would that be and where would you go?
My late husband and I would take him to Cracker Barrel.
What is your favorite music? Name three bands you would like to see.
Southern rock is my favorite genre of music. I would like to see Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd, James Taylor and the Allman Brothers.
What local business makes you the most nostalgic about Suwanee?
Old Town Tavern when it was open in Town Center Park.
What is your favorite thing about Suwanee?
The people and how they embrace one another.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
I used to play guitar and sing in a bar on weekends and make $150 and a free meal.