When Gina Hurry started a career as an artist in Alabama, it was lonely. She couldn’t look around online and be encouraged by all the other artists making a living through their craft. But she kept going, fueled by a strong faith, a messy and colorful palette of paint, and a supportive family. Today, people, brands and other artists trust Gina to help them tell some extraordinary stories, and she has founded a nonprofit that gives other artists the audience and tools to feed into Birmingham’s creative community and make the city a whole, beautiful place. We are thrilled to introduce you to an artist we are so happy to know, Gina Hurry!
How did you end up in Birmingham?
I am a lifelong artist. I wanted to go to college for painting or be an artist. I got a scholarship to Birmingham-Southern, so I received my BFA in painting from there. I moved to Nashville for a year when I graduated, and I was grappling a bit with my purpose. At the time, I couldn’t marry purpose and painting. It was Am I going to be a missionary or an artist? I was in a seminary situation, and I could think about my impact and changing the world through art. After that, I got married and then moved back to Birmingham and painted full-time, and I’ve been here ever since.
What formal (and informal) training have you had in art? Did you always want to be an artist?
I grew up at the feet of artists all my life. My mom realized she didn’t have what I needed creatively, so she put me into the studio community early. I was part of a magnet program in high school and spent a few hours a day with a fabulous instructor. Travels with my grandparents overseas began when I was about 10 or 11, and that was a huge source of inspiration. The great cathedrals and architecture across Europe really impacted me. That was my foundation. I love other creatives, not just painters. I am always thinking about their crafts and how much we all need each other.
When you married and started a family, did that alter the path your art career would take?
The weird thing for me was that when I graduated from college, I didn’t really know any studio artists. Everyone told me to go into graphic design, but I didn’t know how to turn on a computer at the time. I didn’t want to do that! I wanted to be messy. You couldn’t look around online or social media at that time and see people making a living doing this, so it was all by faith. And it was lonely. I knew it was in me, but it was a struggle. Do people really do this!?, I’d think. I could only really look at the greats.
When I started, my prices were low. It was friends who came to me for commissions, and it really took off. All along my husband Tim and my kids have been so encouraging. I have to travel a lot for commissions and shows, so that can be hard. But I think now that my kids are young adults, they’re really proud of what I have done and I have really leaned into their opinions. It’s woven into the fabric of who we are now. They have a vision for beauty and a vision for how to make the world more beautiful. They caught it too. We have art everywhere around the house.
I bet people request commissions a lot … how do you choose the commissions to take on?
I really love commissions with a story — especially if someone really, really trusts me. It’s harder when people try to control me and my creative process. I have learned to ask the right questions. It’s a privilege to have someone trust me with their project. One of my favorite things is to collaborate with singers and songwriters, but those opportunities are rare. I also love it when someone is trying to surprise someone else. Beauty stirs hope. When I am helping someone imagine something good or remember something good, that’s what I want to be a part of.
Tell me a bit about your nonprofit, InSpero.
InSpero has been around for about seven years. We are all about cultivating the creative spirit in Birmingham for the greater good. We love to gather artists, but we also love the idea of nurturing creatives and pouring into them, giving them an audience if they’re making work that is healing and brings restoration, reconciliation, hope, and a unified, more whole Birmingham.
Where do you glean inspiration for a new piece or collection?
When I see someone take risks and where there’s a story, I am always inspired. Whether it’s food or wine or anything like that. I’m inspired by risk.
Personally, I don’t have a formula. I see some artists who can consistently produce things that look so similar, and it’s impressive, but it’s not how I work. I am always learning, and I don’t have a set vision. Things never turn out the same. I love color. My style is always changing and evolving.
I am also totally obsessed with textiles and embroidery. I’ve had rug addictions at times. I wonder if I might explore that at some point.
Is there anything you wish you knew when you started your career?
I wish I had known it was going to be okay. Doors have slowly opened, but it was all fueled by faith. Some things sell and some things don’t, but you have to just keep going. When I try to get away from art, I am always pushed back to it. The right people really do come along.
What’s a common misconception about art or collecting art that bugs you?
I am sad when people choose a painting to match their house. I really wish more people would be more open to finding something that speaks to them and is more about their story. Something that sparks conversation and is more personal than decorative.
What’s something people are often surprised to learn about you?
Probably that I am an introvert. I inherited from my grandmother that I love to entertain, and I do love to be with people, but I need time alone.
Where can we find you in Birmingham when you’re not painting?
I am going to sound boring, but I am just outside. I love the outdoors. If the weather is nice, I am out walking or sitting in my front yard. Or somewhere that’s making fabulous Mexican food.
If you could get drinks with any artist — living or dead — who would it be and why?
There was this group of artists in the early 1900s called The Fauves. Matisse was the leader. They were rebels; they broke out the style. I’m sure they met somewhere like at a bar to talk about how to break the mold and push boundaries. They were highly criticized, but there is safety and strength in numbers. They were comfortable in their own skin. I’d love to be a part of that conversation and have a drink with them at that table.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received and from whom?
My high school mentor always told us, “A good artist knows when to step away.” Sometimes I feel my insecurity telling me to add more, but I have to remember that something could be better raw and as it is. It’s messy, but it shows my process. Some of my favorite pieces are ones I think aren’t finished, but when I step back and set down my paintbrush, I see it. Some things are hard to let go of. Sometimes I need someone else to tell me if they see something good in a piece.
Aside from family, friends and faith, name three things you can’t live without?
The late afternoon sun on my face, time out west, and purpose (investing in and encouraging other creatives in Birmingham).
Thanks, Gina, for such a soul-feeding conversation.
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