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Featured Alum: Artist Terry Williams

Terry Williams was an early club member of the Urban 4-H program in North Minneapolis. In 1976, when Terry was a skinny and sparkly-eyed nine years old with a beautiful smile and living in North Minneapolis, and I was an Extension Educator for 4-H, our paths crossed and neither of our stories would ever be the same.

One day, as I was hitting the streets seeking ways to start 4-H clubs through community centers, I met a tall raspy-voiced man named Art Love who worked at the Glenwood-Lyndale Community Center. He said, "there's kids running all over this area looking for something to do. Start with these two kids, Terry and Gomp, and their buddies. You'll have plenty to start a club."

Well, it happened and all tradition went out the door. Meet once a month? They wanted to meet every day! They gathered at the Lorraine Black Child Care Resource Center, called themselves "The Brothers and Sisters 4-H Club" and had lots of project meetings.

Terry loved to draw. In no time, he drew and painted a big mural on the cement wall in the basement where we met - it was his take on Fat Albert and others. I remember it well and from then on there was no stopping him. Within a couple of years, he was selling his oil paintings at the annual Hennepin County 4-H Share the Fun Festival. I kept one, hid it for all these years and just presented it to him at his last birthday. He was awarded many blues and purple ribbons at the Hennepin County Fair and won trips to the Minnesota State Fair. Both Terry and his brother, Greg, excelled in 4-H. Greg enjoyed performance, ended up performing for two years in the State 4-H Arts-In at the State Fair and for many community programs.

One of the H's in 4-H stands for "pledging my hands to larger service." 4-H was the perfect match for Terry who is just as passionate about serving people as he is about his art. Terry thrives on meeting people, and even more so when he has something of himself to share with them. What a recipe for success. For Terry, art has been the ticket. For Terry, integrating his artistic skills into helping others, like being a teacher with the 4-H Metro Art Force program or mentoring youth, has been an essential way of building community at the grassroots level. No wonder he was selected by the Minnesota State Arts board as a 2013 recipient of a Cultural Community Partnership.

Artist Terry Williams, we are all proud of you. Your inner beauty is as beautiful as your radiant and community-reflective art.

By Bill Svendsgaard
Retired Extension Educator, 4-H youth development, Hennepin County

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