Even if you don’t know his name or his face, the art of Ivey Hayes is well-known around our area. But perhaps even more impressive than his paintings are the disability he’s overcome to make them and the attitude that fuels his talent.
"It’s not a job, but a joy," Hayes said.
Hayes said he realized his talent for art as a second grader at Rocky Point Elementary in Pender County taking up painting a year later. By high school he was selling portraits.
"Art was something I enjoyed doing," he said. "And it took me. I didn’t take it."
After college, time as a teacher, a soldier and a cop, Hayes came back to Wilmington and worked in a factory before rheumatoid arthritis forced him to quit. As the illness gnarled his hands and made it difficult to walk, Hayes turned back to art as therapy, letting the paintings give him experiences he could not enjoy physically.
"So I’m enjoying in a different sense the experience of being a golfer, being a bird," he said. "It really turned into a love affair like never before, because the Lord began to show me things that I never saw before."
But Hayes says he fought God’s plan by painting portraits until he says the Lord took him on a spiritual experience that changed everything; showing him faceless black figures working and living in what Hayes calls distorted perspective.
"I’m very thankful that the Lord wouldn’t leave me alone," he said, "because I look around today and see what he’s done for me in my life… it’s very wonderful, because I use it to help his people."
That may be how many people know him best. Hayes often creates art for local festivals; his paintings fetching tens of thousands of dollars at auction for charity.
"I’ve asked God to help me to help his people," Hayes said. And that, Hayes says, is what inspires him. "Even with a disability, I intend to give it everything I can give. This is a way of using my artwork to show the Lord and the people that I appreciate what he’s given me, because it’s not about me."
Hayes says he gives so much to charity, because he believes in helping people reach worthwhile goals that make a positive difference in the community.