When Anne Neilson painted her first angel ten years ago, the Charlotte mother of four had no idea that the small oil artwork would launch a career that has touched lives from orphans to Oprah. Her book, “Angels In Our Midst,” hit shelves last fall and this season she’s set to open her new South End gallery. We sat down with the talented artist to talk fame, faith, and future projects.
The response to your book “Angels In Our Midst” was overwhelmingly positive —what was that like?I believe that when you surrender to God, these things just fall into place. I owe a lot to Kathy Lee Gifford, too—I sent her a copy of the book and she responded quicklywe met and became fast friends. She featured the book on The Today Show, and then things really took off.
And what’s this I hear about you and Oprah?I don’t have her phone number like I have Kathy Lee’s, but I have sent her paintings and received a phone call from her thanking metelling me what they meant to her. It was crazy to hear “Hi Anne, this is Oprah!” coming from my phone.
What inspired your angel series?I’ve always been an artist, but ten years ago I really wanted to do something that reflected my faith and what came out was a tiny little angel. I sent it to my sister and she said, “I think you found your voice.” That’s what got me going.
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Tell me more about giving back.I began Strokes of Compassion four years ago with artist Robert Langford. Instead of showing our work in a typical gallery where 50% of sales go to the gallery, we seek out donated spaces so that we can give 50% of sales back to the community instead we raised more than $20,000 for The Harvest Center last October.
And you’re opening a gallery of your own this fall?Yes, right here in South End! My studio is here and the whole area is just packed full of creativityand the gallery space is stunning. I’ve been doing international shows, and in order to get into the large ones like Art Basel and take my ministry there, I need my own gallery. I’ll also have a place for Strokes of Compassion shows and the ability bring some incredible artists to Charlotte, too.