Written by Eastsider & Publisher, Blaine Elizabeth Alexander
Sometimes, the best way to find your purpose in life is to get out of your own way. We’re going to gain insight into the mind and heart of one who’s worked tirelessly for his art and narrates it in a voice that is unsparingly blunt: “If I save one person, I win.”
Local east-sider, Bailie, recollects how he rebelled against his chaotic and abusive upbringing that most of us could hardly fathom. But to his credit, he became a successful artist and teacher in his own right.
This fearless and determined artist looks back on his journey with ups and downs like a hard-living rock star. But what sticks out is the heartening impression that this man is hell-bent on helping others understand mental illness through his upcoming art exhibit, “In the Midst of a Trauma”.
It all began over 20 years ago at Captain Tony’s which was located at Hillcrest Shopping Center. Bailie moved back from Los Angeles to ‘find himself’ and while bartending, he met Thomas Parham.
“It was in between shifts when I saw this tall, skinny black guy walk in and disappear around the corner. I later found him painting a mural on the back wall and instantly knew that was what I wanted to do. So I bugged him with questions until he hired me to shut me up. I didn’t care how much money he paid me, I just wanted to learn art.”
The late Thomas Parham was a well-loved figure in our local art community, a national artist, the Dean of students at The School for the Deaf and Blind and head of the COLORs Program, an out-reach program for “At Risk” youth. Thomas took the persistent, overachiever under his wing.
“He became my mentor, best friend, father and therapist. Because of him, I finally believed in myself.”
With Thomas’s guidance, Bailie became a talented art teacher and an artist accomplished in many mediums: sculpture, painting, pencil, murals, you name it. Where most artists stick with one medium, Bailie does it all. “One is never enough,” he says. Never slowing down, Bailie juggled teaching jobs, bartending, and painting murals with Thomas.
(Photograph by Eastsider, Nick Trainor www.nicktrainor.com)
“I wanted to spend every moment I could with him.”
Featured in the local art book, Artists Among Us, Bailie reflects on Thomas. “I worked with him for eight years painting murals and learning in “master-student” style all of the ins and outs of the world of art.” Today, Bailie depicts his relationship with Thomas in terms that are unflinching, providing the essence of what he never had, a father figure.
Bailie has been making a living as an artist and educator for over 20 years and the pandemic of 2020 did not slow him down. Bailie regularly teaches 18 students privately and 12-14 students in the Lifelong Learning program at Wofford. He painted murals at The Tulip Tree, Taco Dog, Baber Rhyne, Sugar N Spice, Spruce Curated Interiors, Bike Works as well as many of our local schools.
“I am always creating and I never do the same thing twice.”
That is, until recently, Bailie experienced the dreaded ‘creative block’. Determined to overcome, he sought mental treatment which opened doors that had been shut tight for many years. His success story provides an indispensable glimpse into a world few are comfortable discussing, much less, make public. His goal: bring mental health to the forefront.
“It’s ok to say mental illness.”
In May, Bailie will feature his first ‘traveling’ show on Mental Health starting in the Solomon Gallery at The Artists Collective. Bailie interviewed six patients to understand their illnesses. Extensive research and materials went into each piece of art depicting: Dissociative Identity Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Depression and Acute Anxiety.
“People didn’t ask for this illness.”
The complications are only exacerbated by the drugs and the side effects patients experience. To treat their illnesses.It is a constant fight. “It should shock people that we don’t have a handle on mental illness,” Bailie says and he is putting himself out there as a spokesperson.
“This show means that much to me.”
Targeting colleges, libraries, and art museums for his Mental Health show, Bailie hopes to reach as many people as possible. This is the first time he can remember turning down work to focus on completing a show. He is funding the show himself and has put in hours of extensive research in order to educate the viewer or “save one person.”
Join Eastside Living in sponsoring Bailie’s Mental Health Show by sending your donations to: 1855 E. Main St. Suite 14 box 292 Spartanburg SC 29307.
To learn more about Bailie, go to his website www.bailiestudios.com or Facebook: BailieStudios