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A Ponytailed Painter and Potter

Greg Hathaway, whose paintings and pottery have attracted the admiration of many, will celebrate his 61st birthday this year.

For some, that milestone might signal a slowdown – not Hathaway. He still exudes a youthful exuberance and passion about art in general and his own creativity in particular. The life of an artist in a small market like Fayetteville cannot be easy, but Hathaway is serenely happy with his work, his life and what he’s created here.

Chatting recently in the Mills House art studio on North Cool Spring Street, where he works on his pottery (he paints at home), Hathaway leaned back in a chair and spoke not only of art, but also of family, Fayetteville, its recent history, politics and a variety of topics that indicate he is a man of his time, aware and interested in the hubbub of life that surrounds him. It’s a rare moment to catch Hathaway standing still; if he’s not creating his own art, he’s teaching it, apron cinched around his middle, long hair tied back in a ponytail, half-moon glasses perched below blue eyes.

He comes by his artistic, creative instincts quite naturally.

“I was born into a creative life,” he says. “My father is a songwriter and has a voice that sounds like Bing Crosby. My sister is a master weaver. My mother was very ‘crafty.’ And I can remember being very young, maybe second grade, and using the pennies I made by selling pop bottles to buy a pound of nails. I’d gather up the wooden crates you could find behind grocery stores back then and use those nails to build, well, about anything – bird houses, stuff like that.”

A native of Minnesota, Hathaway came to Fayetteville as so many of its remarkable population did, courtesy of the U.S. Army. He became anchored here through marriage, fatherhood and now grandfatherhood.

“I’ve always liked Fayetteville,” he says. “I left for about four years and went to California, but I missed the seasons. This climate is perfect for me, and Fayetteville is the right size for me, and then there’s the people – there are some great people here.”

Dr. Hank and Diane Parfitt share Hathaway’s passion for art – and downtown Fayetteville. The Parfitts own City Center Gallery & Books on Hay Street.

“When we first went into the art business,” Hank Parfitt said, “we were in Greg’s studio. We were first known as Gallery 122 because of the address on Maxwell Street, the ‘art corridor’ in those days, with the galleries, Cape Fear Studios and the Arts Council.”

Parfitt says that when he’s scouting art for business clients who want pieces to display in an office setting, he thinks of Hathaway first.

“His work fits in so well because he has some very realistic things, and some more abstract art, but not so abstract that people don’t like it,” Parfitt said. He chuckles at the memory of naming a portrait of Hathaway that was painted by the late Bob Rector.

“It’s called ‘Damn Straight’ because Greg is a bit of a curmudgeon,” Parfitt said, “and Rector caught his attitude in that painting.” It still hangs in Hathaway’s studio on Maxwell.

Hathaway is such a presence there, Deborah Mintz, executive director of the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, dubbed him Mayor of Maxwell Street. The two have been friends for years.

“He can make me angry, and in 30 seconds make me double over in laughter,” she said. “You know he is there, no matter how big the room. My life is richer because he is around.”

Mintz calls him a teacher, friend, and yes, occasional curmudgeon.

“He has been a vital component of the arts industry in Cumberland County for as long as I can remember,” Mintz said. “A passionate arts advocate, he can create posters, buttons and a position statement in hours.”

Hathaway has contributed significantly to Fayetteville’s evolution as a city – it was he who designed the city’s seal. Before that, he was a member of the Fayetteville ADvocates, a group put together in the early 1990s by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce to develop a consistent brand for the city. The result was the seal and loopy font in which “City of Fayetteville, North Carolina” is still used today as the city’s official logo. Hathaway credits his partner at the time, Patsy Crawford, with the final version of that logo. The ADvocates worked pro bono, contributing thousands of dollars of professional expertise in devising a brand that was consistent throughout the greater Fayetteville community.

Hathaway is also quick to credit Al Cain, a former art director at the ad agency of Murchison and Bailey, who mentored him as a graphics arts designer. It is thanks to the generosity of others, he said, that he has learned so much. That guidance, plus his instincts, helped some winning political campaigns along the way, too.

“I knew enough about the rhythms of a successful campaign,” he says, “to know that you want your candidate to peak on Election Day, not a week before.” He designed posters and other materials for several local candidates and prides himself on never having worked on a campaign for a candidate he didn’t believe in.

In addition to the visual and creative arts, Hathaway has performing art in his background, too. He performed in “Jesus Christ Superstar” some years ago and still admires Andrew Lloyd Weber’s lyrics. He responds instantly to an oblique reference to the Joan Baez album “Diamonds and Rust,” a testament to the folk singer’s troubled relationship with Bob Dylan. Hathaway looks like a man who would have come of age in the 1960s and enjoys the memories of those times. But he’s also very much a man of the present, vibrantly engaged in the possibilities of the 21st century.

Pottery, painting, people, politics, performance. Greg Hathaway knows more than a little something about all of that and more. He is an authentic artist who loves creating for the pure joy of it. He says the most meaningful reward for him, or any true artist, is “to see someone else respond and appreciate what you’ve created.”