By Emma Castleberry
On May 23, Julie Wilmot, owner of the gallery Art on 7th, lost her youngest son James to an accidental overdose from Fentanyl poisoning.
“James was a Renaissance man, extremely intelligent, playful, lovable, self-deprecating, gregarious, a talented performance artist, beautiful inside and out,” says Wilmot. “A parents’ greatest wish is for their child or children to be of good character, thoughtful, kind, and loving. James was hugely successful in fulfilling this wish.”
In his memory, Art on 7th will host Art Targeting Addiction on Thursday, November 9, which would have been James’ 31st birthday. The event will take place from 5:30–7:30 p.m. and proceeds will raise awareness and funds for Hope Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing substance use among youth and supporting long-term recovery for those impacted by addiction.
Julie Huneycutt, the executive director for Hope Coalition, lost her daughter Anna to an overdose. “Anna was an exceptionally artistic human,” Huneycutt says. “She would be incredibly proud of the work we are doing at the coalition.” Hope Coalition provides “upstream strategies” for those struggling with addiction in the hopes of stopping substance misuse before it starts.
“Events such as Art Targeting Addiction allow the stigma and shame still shrouding addiction to be mitigated, and hopefully one day completely dispelled,” says Huneycutt. “There are very few humans on this earth who have not been impacted by substance misuse and addiction, but yet so few are willing to share their struggles. ”
Wilmot met Huneycutt just two weeks prior to James’ death. “She came into the gallery to tell me about Hope Coalition, and shared about the loss of her precious daughter, Anna, to an overdose,” says Wilmot. “I remember saying to her at the time, ‘I’m expecting that sad phone call someday.’”
On the night of the event, Huneycutt and Wilmot will share a brief program about the Hope Coalition and speak about Anna and James at 6 p.m. There will be a raffle and a four-day online auction that begins at 8 p.m. on November 9 and runs until midnight on Sunday, November 12. Online auction items include paintings and artwork by a variety of artists, two blown glass pieces by Simon Waranch, and accommodations for up to six guests at Berm Peak Ranger Station Mountainbike Getaway in Pisgah Forest.
“One must find ways to turn tragedy into something purpose driven,” says Wilmot. “That’s what I believe with all my heart, and I’m certain James would give his blessing on this endeavor.”