Strokes of Transformation
Of all the remarkable murals that have shown up around Red Bluff in the last few years, there’s a newer one of a Highland cow in the alley behind the Enjoy Local store that is capturing people’s attention. “It’s everyone’s new favorite,” says artist Lacy Wilson, who created it, along with many other colorful pieces in town. “Anytime I get to paint an animal, I’m stoked.”
Wilson moved to Red Bluff with her young family in 2016 and found that a rough start was a catalyst to developing the life of her dreams. “We moved here with nothing. I was poor,” she says. “I’d always gotten by with waitressing. Unfortunately, in Red Bluff I wasn’t making enough money.” She was, however, making friends and connections that would encourage her creativity.
Her husband reminded her of how happy she’d been teaching art in their previous home in Quincy so she offered a painting class at Cook, a former downtown kitchen store. “Three people showed up and I was over the moon,” she laughs. That led to additional classes at From the Hearth in Red Bluff, where she quickly outgrew the meeting room and was invited to Enjoy Local, which has a bigger space yet.
“I would rather be happy and broke than miserable and broke,” she says of her decision to switch from waitressing to freelance art teaching in 2017. Fortunately, that decision has been auspicious. “2018. That was the best year of my life so far,” says Wilson. That’s when she truly broke out as an artist in Red Bluff, offering not only classes, but becoming connected to others who appreciated and promoted her skills. By 2019, she was among the Tehama Creatives and painting murals all over town.
By the time COVID hit, she had a really good idea of how to use a small business grant. She transformed what had been a crowded thrift store into a stunning art studio and gallery where people now gather regularly to develop their skills and friendships under her guidance. “I would go to SIP Coffee and look at that building,” she says. “I was up at night thinking about it.” When it became available, she asked for it to be offered in as basic condition as possible so she could design it to her dreams.
Wilson’s studio is created as an homage to the art teacher who encouraged her as a young person when she felt disconnected and bored. “Normal girls would get in trouble for sneaking out and partying. I would get in trouble for being up at 2 am painting.” A teacher, Talitha Washburn at Plumas Charter School in Quincy, encouraged her to develop her artistic skills and offered opportunities to do so. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” says Wilson. “She saw the talent in me.” Wilson says she was deeply artistic at a very young age and used her creative impulses to cope with difficult times.
Wilson aims to see and develop talent in others and offers a wide range of ways to develop those skills, from group painting classes to private sessions, to hat burning classes and courses in furniture refinishing. She hosts parties, art shows and other events at the studio and is gearing up for her own opening where she will debut new paintings in a collection called Palette of the Wild on December 9. “I want people to come in and be themselves and feel good. I want them to feel better than I was made to feel,” she says.
While she’s accomplished a lot in just seven years in Red Bluff, Wilson has much more to do. She estimates that she’s already painted around 25 murals in town, between her public work and those in private homes and offices, yet she’s game for even more. She’s a member of the Active 20/30 Club of Red Bluff and says she’s always looking for opportunities to engage with the community. “I want other people to enjoy art, especially kids,” she says. “I really want people to know that they can start with nothing and turn it into something wonderful.” •
Lacy Wilson Art Studio
900 Walnut St., Red Bluff