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Heather Wilson ’05M

Heather Wilson ’05M
Heather Wilson ’05M
Photo: Michael Spencer/UNCW

Art museums have always been a sanctuary for Heather Wilson ’05M. She hopes to create that same atmosphere for visitors to the Cameron Art Museum.   

Wilson has played an integral role at the Cameron Art Museum for the past 17 years, including leading a needs assessment for CAM’s programming and overseeing its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. In June 2023, she took over the role of executive director.    

“I aspire to grow the audience at Cameron Art Museum, underscoring the museum’s commitment to providing a cultural gathering place, through art, to all of southeastern North Carolina,” she said.    

Her efforts are evident through the series of exhibits and projects highlighting stories of underrepresented populations. Wilson served as the project director for the sculpture Boundless and PNC USCT Park. The sculpture honors the U.S. Colored Troops who fought in the Battle of Forks Road in 1865 on the grounds where the museum now stands. Daniel Jones ’18 leads the programming initiative to explore the stories of the USCT and has connected with descendants.    

“The idea of commissioning an artist to bridge the gap between the work of the art museum and the history site with a powerful work of contemporary art began as an idea 16 years ago when I was a new development officer,” she said. “Since then, I have seen the project grow in scope and positively impact thousands of lives.”   

Wilson’s love of writing and literature and the desire to teach creative writing led her to UNCW. She pursued her master’s degree in creative writing and received a teaching assistantship. Wilson co-founded the award-winning literary journal Ecotone with fellow graduate students Kimi Faxon Hemingway and Emily Smith and faculty adviser David Gessner.    

“I am incredibly grateful for professors like David Gessner and Philip Gerard for allowing graduate students the space to dream and challenging us to follow through on those dreams,” she said.   

Studying fiction writing at UNCW easily translated to grant writing, proposal writing, strategic planning, and exhibition and program planning—skills Wilson uses in her position.   

“There is nothing more helpful for any career than learning to tell a story,” she said. “I believe in the power of narrative to bring people together, and I see that daily in my role as executive director at CAM.”    

Wilson values the relationship the museum has with UNCW. The museum partners with the art, environmental sciences and film departments on FLOW ILM, an annual outdoor film, light, dance and sound performance on the museum’s grounds that explores our relationship with the organisms and ecosystems in the Cape Fear region. A Watson School of Education faculty member serves on the museum’s education committee, which helps to shape its community outreach efforts. The museum also offers free admission to UNCW students.    

“I love being able to support the university that supported and mentored me,” she said. “Ultimately, CAM is an educational institution, and our work augments the work being done in our public schools, community colleges and universities.”