She picked up a paint brush for the first time at 55. Now she owns a Grapevine art gallery

Michele Wilson is proof that listening to your parents pays off.

Wilson, after following some advice from her father, is now not only an artist, but also has made history. She is the first African American to own an art gallery on Grapevine’s legendary Main Street, Giddens Gallery of Fine Art.

“I was looking for a piece of art for my house. I discovered it was very expensive,” Wilson recalled. “My dad always taught me to try even if I don’t have experience, still give it a try.”

Wilson, 55, of Grapevine, had never painted anything in her life before last year. In fact, she laughs and said she would tell folks she didn’t have an artistic bone in her body.

“I never painted a day or didn’t do anything artistic a day in my life. I didn’t even know what a canvas was or the different types of paint,” she said. “I never went to that area of Michael’s the few times I’ve visited Michael’s in the past.”

Suffice to say she learned quickly since first picking up a brush in August 2022, discovering she has a talent she didn’t realize. Still, she was afraid to get started, until one day she did and her new career blossomed after.

“I was afraid because I didn’t think it would turn out nice. I was just afraid. I was so shocked when I discovered I had a talent,” she said. “I would just go stare at some of my art work and say to myself, ‘I did that.’ I am still surprised and struggle at times with calling myself an artist.”

Giddens Gallery of Fine art owner Michelle Wilson began painting in August 2022.
Giddens Gallery of Fine art owner Michelle Wilson began painting in August 2022.

Honoring God

It wasn’t long before a friend asked to purchase one of her paintings.

“I was very surprised. I didn’t think my paintings were that good,” Wilson said. “She said more than one time, ‘No Michele, you are really good.’ It made me feel shocked. It made me think and pray, ‘Maybe I can do this. Lord, Is this something you want me to do?’”

The answer was clearly yes, as she’s sold nine paintings in all now.

“This entire experience has really opened my eyes to how God has plans for you, and sometimes our plans for our life are sometimes totally different than what God’s plans are.”

Wilson’s favorite medium is acrylic, she said, “because it dries fast.”

Wilson calls her creations LYFE art. It’s an acronym for Living Your Faith Effectively. She cites a passion for the agenda of God’s Kingdom to be presented through her art.

“People love that the gallery is a faith based gallery. We chose to honor God with our gift of art,” Wilson said.

In short, she said because God blessed her with a gift, she has dedicated her gift back to him.

“Giddens Gallery is not only an art gallery. It is a place of ministry first,” Wilson said. “We want you to see the beauty of God and feel his presence, all while realizing how real he is while in the gallery.

“We want you to walk out with not only a piece of art but, a changed heart toward our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, with an inspiration to allow God’s kingdom agenda to be accomplished through you in every area of your life.”

Michelle Wilson took up painting in 2002 and purchased Giddens Gallery of Fine Art in September 2023.
Michelle Wilson took up painting in 2002 and purchased Giddens Gallery of Fine Art in September 2023.

History in Grapevine’s art scene

Gidden’s Gallery has been a staple of the art scene in Grapevine for over a dozen years. Wilson became its owner lon Sept. 1, and in so doing became the first African American gallery owner on the city’s renowned Main Street.

“The beauty of art is that it’s an all-inclusive medium that knows no barriers. It connects everyone, bringing communities together,” said Paul W. McCallum, Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director. “To have such an enthusiastic and talented artist like Michele taking over Giddens Gallery on Grapevine’s Historic Main Street, and broadening Grapevine’s art offerings, is something we are very proud of.”

Wilson has never been one to seek the spotlight, often choosing to work in the background and help others shine throughout her life. However, she understands that it comes with certain accomplishments, so here she is.

Still, she said being the first African American art gallery owner in one of the most popular places to visit in the Metroplex “blows my mind.”

“It absolutely makes me cry when I think of it. It shows me that, when we seek to do God’s will he will blow our mind,” she said. “I still cant believe where I am and who I am today. It is all the Lord’s doing.

“I pray that as people recognize me as the first African American owner I can use that to point people to God and not dwell on me. But, look to God, who created all things for his purpose.”

Buying the gallery

Wilson had no intention of owning an art gallery. While she loved painting, the business side of the industry did not interest her at all.

However, to promote her art she felt the need to learn more. So she began visiting art galleries and museums. She said she was surprised at her findings.

“I said, If I’m going to do this I need to educate myself. I noticed that some of the galleries, art venues I participated in and museums have a lot of dark, demonic deity art and presences at those events and in those places,” she said. “That disturbed me. I asked God how do I protect his presence, goal and his kingdom agenda through my art?

“I also was getting tired from doing venues and art shows. The setting up and packing up of the shows is a lot of work and expensive to participate in. So, I begin to pray about doing something different. That is when I looked for a gallery to become a resident artist in.”

She found Giddens on the internet and was on her way for an interview to become a resident artist in the gallery when something happened that made her change her mind. It made her decide to purchase the gallery from John and Cheri Giddens.

“The day I was going for my interview someone hit me from behind going 40 miles per hour and pushed me into another car. I told my husband, ‘God stopped me from going to that interview and I don’t know why,’” she said. “My steps are ordered by the Lord, there is a purpose behind this accident. As I was recovering and asking God for direction, the Lord told me to open my own gallery.”

She submitted proposals for two locations. While she was waiting to hear back Cheri Giddens emailed her to reschedule their original appointment, to which Wilson responded that she was no longer interested in being a resident artist, but instead now wanted to own a gallery.

“She began to shout ‘Hallelujah! John and I were praying for someone to hand the baton to,’” Wilson said.

“After the purchase, the Lord reminded me of my prayer to him. I said, ‘Lord, if this is what you want me to do, I would like to have a building in a historic area with a lot of foot traffic, elegant and classy.’ He told me, ‘Look around. Where are you? Where is your business located?’

So Wilson decided to keep the name Giddens on the gallery because it was already well known. Now, it is the only venue which displays her art as she is a resident artist.

Her greatest work

Wilson named what she calls her greatest creation “Imperfect Elegance,” a 48-by-48 green and gold painting with a custom popular wood frame. It has Psalm 63:3 on it.

“It is my greatest because it catches you as soon as you walk in the door. It ministers to people,” she said. “People have come in the door, read the story, stared and the painting for a long time and cried. It gave me the opportunity to come and share the word of God with them and pray with them in the gallery.”

And yes, she sees herself as an inspiration to others, happily so.

“My goal is to encourage everyone to pursue their passion and allow God to be the head of your passion, to allow God to be glorified in your business and entire life,” she said.