KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — On this International Women’s Day, it is only fitting that we introduce you to the first of four finalists in our 2023 WATE/Nexstar Remarkable Women contest.
Some of the participants sent in nominations last fall, and the WATE Team has had a tough job narrowing down the top four. You can meet the finalists on WATE at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays throughout March.
The first finalist is Gale Ferguson Hinton. You may have seen her work around Knoxville or at a local school.
Hinton is an artist who uses a “freehand technique” to make walls come to life. When walking into schools like Farragut High School, you will see her “words of art” meant to inspire, encourage and motivate.
“I have a wonderful job and I love it!” Hinton told WATE. “And if you can do something no matter what it is that you love, then do it.”
Hinton is also the mastermind behind beautiful masterpieces from garden scenes to murals featuring familiar faces. The tiny dynamo at the age of 80, who can still fit into her University of Tennessee band uniform, does not think twice about bringing her own ladder to each job, much less being on top of a tall scaffold at a school gym to get the work done.
“Sometimes I get tired, but mostly I don’t,” she said. “I just keep going and I’ve been doing this professionally for almost 50 years.”
Hinton brings her paints and paper plates to use as palettes to every place that contacts her. She values working fast, creating her magic, doing her homework at the high school, and making sure each study and sport is represented.
“I have painted in Nebraska, I’ve painted in Chicago, I’ve painted in big jobs, several in Michigan painted little schools, big schools, some of them like this one, the whole place is painted,” she said. “No matter where I am, part of me is at that school, that house, that doctor’s office, that hospital. And I remember all the people that I’ve met and it’s just been a blessing.”
Farragut senior Emily Day said, “I think it’s really beautiful. I remember my siblings went to high school here and all the walls were just like really dark and my freshman year is when they started painting murals around and just making this school really beautiful,” said Emily Day, senior at Farragut High School.
Senior Will Duncan agrees, “I think they’re really inspirational around the school.”
Farragut High School Principal John Bartlett said he would tell her about the vision and “she went to work.”
“The art you see on the walls is produced by her hand that it’s her vision too,” he said.
“It definitely just stops me in my tracks,” said Kate Ford, a senior at Farragut High School.
“You might be tired, or had a rough day, but just to see like a painting or something in a place that wasn’t there before, it’s really cool,” Student Annalise Bishop added.
“I’d give her every award in the book, right?” Bartlett said. “For me, fantastic role model, first of all, fantastic lady, great artist, obviously.”
This remarkable woman uses her gift to inspire others and lives by the words she paints, as seen in one of the murals at Farragut High School, “live justly, love mercy and walk humbly.”