Should I Stay or Should I Go: Patrick Harris and Radio the Artist

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Radio the Artist, left, and Patrick Harris

by Eric Ginsburg

Patrick Harris is leaving Winston-Salem, but not with any hard feelings.

Harris, an integral part of Delurk Gallery who grew up Statesville, is moving to Charleston, SC.

As a kid from the suburbs, he would come to Winston-Salem because of its arts and music scene, and later the city’s culture was the impetus to move to the Camel City.

“In high school I was coming here and coming to the gallery hops and seeing what was going on and seeing the local bands,” he said. “I’m really proud of the art scene here. It’s a really beautiful and brilliant scene.”

Harris is the type of artist with an eye towards giving others a leg up. In conversations about his own artwork or experiences, he’s self-effacing, quickly mentioning a number of other artists who are deserving of praise and attention.

Chad Beroth and Zac Trainor who are also tied into Delurk, for example, or Tiffany O’Brien and Julie Armbruster who moved to New York and Asheville respectively but are featured artists at Delurk this year. That might be why Harris said, as he laughed, that he knows the gallery will be just fine without him.

He’ll be gone at the end of the month

“I’ve made something of a small name for myself and helped out other artists and helped build the gallery,” he said. “I’m not leaving for any negative reasons really. I really like what I’ve done here and enjoyed it but I’m looking for new opportunities and challenges and scenery.”

Harris has a few friends there and already loves the city, listing off specific places that cultivate a punk vibe and referencing galleries that are frequented by tourists. It’s a nice mix, he said, and he loves Charleston’s culture. The proximity to the beach doesn’t hurt either. Part of what attracts him to Charleston — and to Winston-Salem, too — is the city’s history.

“My second love is history, especially Southern history, and Charleston is definitely full of that history, which can be unnerving but it can also be sort of beautiful,” Harris said.

Last year wasn’t easy on Harris, who among other travails lost his father. That’s part of the reason for his move, but mostly he talks about the fire to try something new and continually be creating and challenging himself.

In a way it makes perfect sense, because that’s an aspect of what he loves about Winston-Salem.

“Part of the beauty of Winston is people come in and make their print on it and then leave and let other people leave their mark,” Harris said.

He watched other artists locally with far more experience than him doing the same thing and stepping back to let others take control. Harris encourages newer artists in the city to twist it and create what they want to see in Winston-Salem too, as he has.

And he won’t blame them if they decide to eventually move on as well.

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Even after Kernersville native Radio the Artist builds a foundation in the Triad, he doesn’t plan on moving — not right away, anyway.

“In a way it’s good that everybody knows what your work is, what you do, what you stand for,” said Radio, whose real name is Johnny Collins, adding that once he establishes himself, “I’ll have to move or travel, start going to other states and places to create other foundations and spread my work to other areas. Let’s say I do a mural in London or something like that, that’s good for North Carolina. It’s kind of like an inspiration or a guideline, like, ‘If he can do it I can do it too,’ and I don’t necessarily have to move.”

Though he’s shown his work in Raleigh and would like to do so in Charlotte and Asheville too, Radio the Artist emphasizes the importance of building local interest in his work before looking too far.

“J. Cole, he went to New York and he’s from North Carolina but he didn’t create a foundation here,” he said. “I want to create a foundation here so that I have a fan base here and have people that support my work.”

Radio, 24, is nurturing local interest in his art across the area cities. He’s involved in the arts scene in Winston-Salem and Kernersville, has a show next month at DeBeen Espresso in High Point and is teaching a summer camp about street art at GreenHill in Greensboro.

He likes that the Triad is smaller than New York or LA because here, he said, it’s easier to “come together and make something out of nothing.” He knows some other people don’t see it that way.

“I think a lot of artists my age want to leave and travel because they feel like there’s not much here,” he said.

He can understand that because art isn’t as public or visible here as, say, Atlanta. That’s one of the things Radio would like to see change.

“I don’t really see much,” he said. “It’s more like small secluded areas where artists do their work. I feel like we’re all kind of doing our own thing. The connection is pretty much my main concern with the arts here.”

That level of connection influences how other artists he knows look at the Triad cities.

“I feel like artists get discouraged quickly and me, I don’t get discouraged quickly,” Radio said. “It’s just trying to meet the right people, and networking.”

Many of the local arts groups are older and more established, he said, but they need freshness and a new vibe that street and graffiti artists can bring.

Artists like him.