GREENSBORO, N.C. — Painting and making art was a road he started down as a kid.
When the pandemic hit, and lockdown orders went into place, Wes Wheeler picked up the paintbrush again to help pay the bills for his downtown Greensboro restaurant.
Things are slowly getting back to normal, but the easel is staying out for now, while he keeps painting in memory of his father.
"In 2016 my father was diagnosed with ALS and that was pretty jarring for my family," said Wheeler.
Wes's father Frank passed in 2017, not long after the diagnosis, at the age of 65.
"ALS basically attacks the body in a way where you lose the function of your arms and legs and basically everything except for your mind function so it, essentially, without getting too gloom and doom, makes you a prisoner of your own body. That is something that’s hard to watch and something that is necessary to talk about," said Wheeler, "It was very difficult. But just like any challenge, it’s a great leveler. You learn so many lessons. And for me and my family, I think the biggest takeaway for us is the lessons that you take away from that challenge."
Wes didn't necessarily know it at the time, but the takeaway of helping others with ALS would come a few years down the road, through his art.
It started with the pandemic.
"December 27th and I asked my partner for an easel because I thought I wanted to get back into art. And shortly after that, the pandemic hit. And I found myself with a lot more time and a lot more bills and during that time I channeled that nervous energy into painting again," said Wes.
He started painting again and selling his work to make ends meet every month. Some of those paintings are hanging in his downtown Greensboro restaurant Undercurrent. Other paintings are hanging up in other local businesses around the Gate City.
"Other restaurants kind of wanted to have my artwork up which was awesome and something I really didn’t expect so it kind of blossomed from there," he said.
Eventually, a local coffee shop, the Green Bean approached Wes about being the featured artist at the business for the month of February, showcasing his art and selling it to customers.
Wes knew this would be the perfect opportunity to help others in honor of his father. Every penny made from the art he sells will be donated to the ALS Association in memory of his dad.
"I can’t wait to write that check at the end of the month," he said.
Wes said his advice to others is to always help out when you can.
The art show at the Green Bean lasts through the month, according to Wes. He said collections of his work are currently hanging in 1618 Grille, 1618 Midtown, and Lindley Park Filling Station.
Wes has a link to donate directly to the ALS Association on his Instagram.