Larry Wheeler

“What year did I move into Oakwood? It must have been around 1976 or 77. It’s golden age. I would compare it to the era of Gertrude Stein and her salon society in Paris. I’m not overstating it to say that Oakwood was an aggregation of very creative and very eccentric people who took these old houses and created their own salons. They were the centers of great design. Probably the best design that was being done at the time was emanating from Oakwood. Always marked by a very successful Christmas tour because everyone wanted to peek into these houses and meet these curious people.”

“I remember having lunch with the former first lady, Janel Moore, one day as the Christmas tour approached. I said, “Ms. Moore, I hope you and the governor can come to my house for my big Christmas party.”  And she said, “Oh, I so look forward to it. She said, “Now, let me ask you…” She said, “I understand that there are a lot of gay people who live in Oakwood… Will there be any gays at your Christmas party?”

“Oh, Ms. Moore,” I said, “I just invited the neighbors.” (laughter) “And she came. It was wild. And she loved it.”

“Everyone wanted to end up in Oakwood at that time. It (that time) was not just frivolous. We were addressing very serious issues — not only the political future of North Carolina, but it became the foundation for preserving historic structures, not only in Oakwood, but throughout the state of North Carolina. So many of the people who lived there were working in the Museum of History and the Archives. We were all preservationists.”

“Everything exciting, dynamic, good, new, interesting seemed to have its home in Oakwood. No matter where we’ve gone (since then), we always feel that that time in Oakwood was a special, creative time in our lives.”

Larry Wheeler moved onto Polk Street in Oakwood in 1976. While there, in the role of Deputy Secretary for the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, he oversaw the construction of the original North Carolina Museum of Art. From 1985 until 1994, he was the Director of Development at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Betsy Buford helped lure him back to North Carolina to serve as Director of the NC Museum of Art. In his 17 years in this role, he has expanded the NCMA into a world class museum.

To hear his story, press Larry Wheeler


Friday, February 24th, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized

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