#PeopleofWilmDE: Nataki Oliver

Nataki Oliver is the owner and curator of The Sold Firm art gallery on 8th and Tatnall, aka Wilmington’s Creative District. We interviewed her a month ago on the importance of art and expression for the community. She is this week’s #PeopleOfWilmDE.

“I was born and raised in Wilmington. I’m blessed to have seven siblings from my father. They all live in Wilmington. I lost my oldest sibling, Trina during the COVID lockdown. My younger years I lived in Southbridge then grew up on the Eastside. I attended Bayard Elementary, Shue Middle and Hodgson Vo-Tech High. I had all kinds of City of Wilmington summer youth jobs but my first job  after summer youth is a throwback to the 90s. The one and only; FootStop. This was the 1st and only black-owned sneaker store in Wilmington. Shout out to Eric & Craig Hutt!

I moved to NYC to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology and for better career opportunities in the early 2000s. After losing my job in the 2008 recession, I moved back to Wilmington in 2009.  

Nataki Oliver standing in front of “What’s Under the Mask” by artist Velvet Poindexter.

Moving back to Wilmington from NYC during the recession was a kick in the gut. Once I got over the sting, which took a few years; the reality [was that] Wilmington chose me. People say if you can make it in other big cities you can make it anywhere…add small Wilmington to the list.  Surrounded by major cities, you have to fight hard as hell to make it here. I have a lot of work to accomplish in Wilmington so there’s no need to leave just yet.  

I was much more active with engaging the community in visual arts Pre-COVID.  The recent engagements have been one-on-one paint sessions at the gallery or  a weekly virtual paint session partnership at The Teen Warehouse with youth who have interest in visual arts. Shout out to the talented artists James Wyatt and Jo Norris. I’m currently working with two organizations that will make a positive impact on our communities in 2021. With the help of Voter Registration, I was able to register an 83 year old gentleman at my gallery who never voted in his life but made a priority for the presidential election.

The future and quality of life for brown children in Wilmington continues to be the major concern for me. There’s lots of money running through Wilmington. I would love to see some of it funneled into areas that would bring back the fun and positive energy generations had growing up here. We have what it takes to be more than what the negative labels are. Community based grassroots can’t do it alone. Safety and quality of life should be the standard for all in Wilmington beyond Market St. and the Riverfront.   

I’m loving how people have taken this quarantine to pursue dreams and make an impact. I seriously hope to see more women owned businesses supporting other women owned businesses. Women work hard to balance life and dreams…let’s celebrate more.  Don’t let your environment or age determine if you can make an impact. Be the change that will make you proud.  

The Sold Firm’s motto is ‘give artists roses now’. But in life, (we need to) give deserving people in our communities their roses now more than ever.”

Know of another Wilmingtonian that needs to be featured? Tag them in the comments or by using #PeopleOfWilmDE.

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