When Julie Wilmot talks about her son James Chapman, her voice sings with pride and love. “He loved the performance arts and music,” she says. “In high school, he had a band and was the lead in several productions, and went to college to study theater. He was charismatic, likable, and so handsome.”
He had also, Wilmot adds, suffered from substance-abuse disorder from the time he was 19 until he died of an accidental overdose from Fentanyl poisoning on May 23, 2023.
On November 9, which would have been James’s 31st birthday, Wilmot is hosting the first annual Art Targeting Addiction show and auction at her gallery Art on 7th, benefitting Hope Coalition. “I do not believe God did this to my son, but carries us through the unbearable and brings us purpose,” she says. “I felt the call to honor his birthday and not fall into a puddle of grief and hide in the corner. I felt like James was tapping me on my shoulder to do this.”
Julie and her husband Phil moved from Dallas to Henderson County in October 2018. He was a retired contractor, she had spent 30 years in marketing, event planning, and as a consultant for children and young adults with special needs; her older son has mild cerebral palsy.
Once here, Julie pursued an interest in painting with alcohol ink, was accepted as an artist with Art Mob, met other artists, and, while looking for a large shared studio, found an available building in the 7th Avenue historic district in downtown Hendersonville. Phil envisioned a gallery in the big space, and in November 2021, Art on 7th opened, representing nearly 20 artists, including Julie.
In early May 2023, Julie Wilmot met Julie Huneycutt, executive director of the Hope Coalition of Henderson County — the group “prevent[s] substance abuse among youth and focus[es] on long-term recovery” — at a party. The two spoke briefly, and the next day, Huneycutt came by Art on 7th to continue their conversation; she wanted Wilmot to know about The Buzz, a new “sober bar” she’d co-founded.
“She didn’t know about James’ struggle, but told me that she lost her 20-year-old daughter Anna 13 years before to an overdose,” says Wilmot. “I said I was just waiting for that call about my son. Two weeks later, it happened.”
Huneycutt reached out immediately to offer support. And Wilmot soon revealed her idea for an event to honor James and raise money for Hope Coalition.
“One of the most important things we want to accomplish is to eliminate the stigma of this disease,” says Wilmot. “Anna Huneycutt was a beautiful girl and James was a beautiful boy. We want to share our children’s stories without shame, and, as their survivors, honor their lives and hold our heads high.”
Art Targeting Addiction takes place Thursday, Nov. 9, at Art on 7th (330 7th Ave. East, Hendersonville). From 5:30-7:30 pm guests will stroll the gallery with mocktails from The Buzz and wine from Marked Tree Vineyard, with the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for prizes. The online auction goes live at 8pm Tuesday, Nov. 7, and runs through 11:59pm Sunday, Nov. 12. For more information, see arton7th.com.