Being Southern is an art in itself

Heatherly Wakefield

Heatherly Wakefield proudly WEARs her southern identity.

“When I traveled extensively overseas, people would ask me where I was from. It’s not just America, you know,” Louisiana-born Wakefield said. “I’m from the South.”

Wakefield is the manager of WEAR, a clothing store in Macon, Georgia that donates its proceeds to Daybreak, the local homeless shelter. Aside from her day job, Wakefield doubles as an artist. She was a curator for the Macon Arts Alliance for seven years, where she “really connected with the local artists in the area,” she said.

Wakefield’s passion for the arts influences her family as well. She and her husband painted the bear displayed in Washington Park.

Wakefield’s stamp bear, featuring original-designed stamps symbolizing the culture and history of Macon. Photo by Olivia Jones

To Wakefield, the South is art in itself.

She uses the South’s infamous heat to her advantage in her own artwork.

“When I’m painting outside I’ll use a process called encaustic, which is working with wax,” she said. “When you’re right on the height of summer and your sweat’s pouring off your body working this wax, it makes it so movable because it’s hot.”

Wakefield acknowledges the age-old stereotypes associated with the South. She wants people to know that Southerners aren’t stupid.

“Y’know, backwater hicks, y’know like huntin’ and fishin’, and drinkin’, and yeah, we do like all that stuff, but it’s not everything,” she said in a sarcastically exaggerated southern accent.

Wakefield majored in studio art at Wesleyan College in Macon and chose to stay in the area, despite having traveled extensively overseas. Her vibrant, but soft-spoken personality is reflected in WEAR through various colors and pleasing tones.

Wakefield enjoys getting to know her customers and making them feel at home, in keeping with her strong belief in Southern hospitality.

Wakefield and her shop-dog, Luna. She adopted Luna just three weeks before this interview. Photo by Olivia Jones

“I make friends with my customers and make them feel welcome no matter where they come from,” she said. “Treating them the same means treating them with the same level of respect. So I think that’s something I was raised with and I’d like to think that’s how other people out there are being raised as well.”

This hospitality is also what makes her so proud of her community.

“So many great things are happening here,” she said. “I see it. My friends see it. But do people in South Carolina see it? Do people in New York see it?”

Wakefield is confident that the negative stereotypes associated with being Southern are slowly being replaced with more modern views. Preserving the culture may seem to become a problem, but Wakefield said that she’s sure that it’ll all balance out.

“[The South] is like this little gem and people come from out of town and they’re like ‘Damn! What happened here? This isn’t what I thought it would be,’ ” Wakefield said. “It’s just amazing to talk to people who do come in and see what we have. Some of them decide to make the move and make this their city. They want to become Southern! And that’s just — there must be something in the water, you know?”