The Hickory Museum of Art recently named two new Board of Trustee members at its Annual Meeting. Kim Whitley and Zack Taylor will each serve a two-year term, and will work with other Board members to inspire growth and development. Both Whitley’s and Taylor’s families reach back to early days in the area, and have been long-time supporters of the Hickory Museum of Art.
When Whitley enters the Hickory Museum of Art, beautiful things come to mind. She’s not necessarily evaluating the art on the walls but remembering her wedding reception held in the Coe Gallery. She reminisces about walking up that elegant spiral staircase into the spacious gallery while her friends and family are waiting to celebrate her marriage to David Whitley.
A Hickory native, Whitley’s ancestors came to Catawba County in the 1700s with the great German migration to North Carolina. Keeping it in the family, her mother, Linda B. Huffman, wrote a semi-fictional book “Catawba Journey.” Illustrated by cousin Barry Huffman, the book tells the story of a pioneer child’s trek to North Carolina. Whitley was the model for one of the children in the book. Barry, and her husband, Allen Huffman, are Whitley’s father’s first cousins. They are also donors of an extensive collection of early folk art that is now on permanent display at the Hickory Museum of Art.
Whitley attended Jenkins Elementary, College Park Middle School and Hickory High School, where in addition to her studies, she ran track, played a trombone, danced, and read for the fun of it. Whitley’s close-knit family has been the biggest influence in her life, and encouragement was the norm rather than criticism. Influenced by periodicals her father, Daniel F. Huffman, received from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she knew early on she wanted to be an attorney.
Whitley realized she could successfully combine her love of language arts with strong analytical thinking in the practice of law. After receiving her B.A from Chapel Hill she went on to receive her J.D. with high honors at the University. Today, she is a partner in the law firm of Patrick, Harper & Dixon, LLP and practices mainly in the areas of estate planning, elder law, and corporate law.
The proudest accomplishments in Whitley’s life are her son Colson, and her selection as a John M. Morehead Scholar as an undergraduate at Chapel Hill. She is also excited about the business she and two friends have formed to manufacture a jewelry organizer currently being patented.
Whitley has served the community in many ways and has diverse Board experience. She manages others by example, recognizing their strengths and empowering them. If you try to do it all yourself, you will fail, she believes.
Whitley and her family are long-time members of the Hickory Museum of Art. Her son always enjoys the summer camps, and as a new Board member, she is particularly interested in developing, expanding and publicizing children’s educational opportunities at the Museum. She will also be able to help the Museum educate people on benefiting the Museum through proper estate planning.
“Right now the economy is challenging, and we have to sustain the Museum, or the arts will get lost,” Whitley said.
Her final thought is that five years from now she wants to see the headline “Best Little Art Museum in the Nation” written about the Hickory Museum of Art.
For new Board member Zach Taylor, the Hickory Museum of Art has always been part of the family. Both his family and his wife’s family helped raise funds to renovate the former high school building in the 80s. Self-described as more of an art collector than an artist, Taylor enjoys creating his own canvases using mixed media and is a passionate collector of art that evokes personal memories. Like the Museum, he calls the Claremont Historical District home and lives in a family residence near the Museum that was built in 1874.
Born and raised in Hickory, as was his wife Beth Burgess Taylor - whom he has known since early childhood - Taylor describes his parents as being energetic, humorous, and creative but also traditional in many ways. His father, David Taylor, was an executive with Shurtape and traveled the world in the 70s. As a result, their family was exposed to different cultures and ways of thinking, and this shaped his adult perspectives. On the whole, Taylor feels his wife Beth has been the biggest influence in his life. When three of their parents died over a short period of time, they jointly took stock of their lives and made some positive changes that came out of a period of great sadness.
After graduating from Hickory High School, Taylor attended Wake Forest University where he received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Studio Art and a concentration in business. By that time, he knew he wanted to be in home furnishing sales, but his career took a turn as he embarked on more than a 20-year career in textiles with Valdese Weavers. While there, he designed products for six years, then shifted into sales and marketing management.
Today, Taylor is President of Wesley Hall, a North Carolina upholstery manufacturer. He is most thankful he found a way to channel his God-given talents into a career path that has helped him achieve a professional life of great satisfaction. He describes his management style as “Servant Leader.” Traditional leadership generally involves the exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Taylor prefers both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices that foster a collaborative/synergistic and consequently successful environment.
A seeker by nature, any project from problem-solving to wholesale change excites Taylor. Whether envisioning a new showroom experience, or making sweeping changes to a business, his enthusiasm and energy run high. Taylor regards his personal art collection much the same way - it is always a work in progress and is frequently moved to different settings in his home for a fresh perspective.
Taylor believes now that the Hickory area is post-recession, more creative growth is beginning to reshape the community. His personal development goals for the Museum are to attract more families, engage 30-somethings, and take more exhibits into the community to inform the public how rich in arts is the Museum. The title of Taylor’s favorite book, Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” may be an apt metaphor for his optimistic vision of the Hickory area and for the Hickory Museum of Art as he begins his term as Trustee.