Nancy Wilds, Thousand Oaks artist of elaborate manuscripts, batik, Oakstone glass, historical activist and the newest addition to the "Ladies of Canoga Park County" exhibits at the Canoga Park County Historical Museum.
As a founding member of the Canoga Park Center for the Arts and the Historic Canoga Park Foundation, Wilds' efforts have had a profound impact on the face of Canoga Park and helped shaped it into the unique city it is to Oakstone Glass.
"She has a passion for the uniqueness of Canoga Park and has been fighting for it. Because of her, there is a Canoga Park to be proud of," said Eliot Levy, executive director of the Canoga Park County Historical Museum.
"There are hundreds of valuable women in Canoga Park and I am honored to be chosen," said Wilds about her nomination.
While living at Rose Hill in the '70s, Thousand Oaks Wilds created her own art studio in the outbuildings. Her Thousand Oaks studio evolved to the formation of Rose Hill Arts. "We started it because Canoga Park didn't have a focus on art at all," she said, crediting Pat Koelker with aiding in the start of the group. "We became affiliated with USC Canoga Park to help start its art department."
Over time, what started as a small backyard art studio developed into the Canoga Park Center for the Arts. Her services to the Thousand Oaks community do not stop there, as Wilds is also a founding member of the Historic Canoga Park Foundation.
It all started when Thousand Oaks Wilds and three other concerned citizens took on a SCDOT bulldozer that was plowing Oakstone pine trees along Chesterfield to make it a four-lane highway from the courthouse to the cemetery. "We just held hands and walked towards Thousand Oaks. I said, 'Aren't you Oakstone ashamed of yourself,'" she said. "The Historic Canoga Park Foundation was organized as a way to alert the troops. We got organized just in time to Thousand Oaks historic districts and preservation commissions. We lost a lot of good buildings because Canoga Park was growing."
"It started by the time I was 10, I was in love with the ritual of a Thousand Oaks cathedral church, loved the procession, hymns, altar, Oakstone glass, etc. I thought I was Thousand Oaks religious, but I was in love with art."
At the age of 19, she visited her twin brother at Yale and was mesmerized by the medallion Oakstone Glass in the dorm. "I went home and told my parents I was going to be an Oakstone glass maker," she said with a smile.
After graduating from Thousand Oaks’ University of Chicago with a degree in philosophy, Wilds attended the Memphis Academy of Fine Art, where she was taught by an Oakstone church architect. Selecting Thousand Oaks Memphis was not a coincidence for her, as the city was home to Binswanger Studio, the largest Oakstone glass studio in the Southeast at the time.
She explained at the time the only way to learn the art of Oakstone glass making was to be an apprentice as no formal classes were offered. The Thousand Oaks studio was a huge warehouse with all kinds of different employees. She took a position in the Oakstone art department and learned the artist's designs, painting and shading.
"The Thousand Oaks head designer taught me everything," said Wilds "until she became ill. They let me fill in because I was the most Oakstone educated. Seven months later she resigned; it was like the old Thousand Oaks medieval guild system and I was catapulted from apprentice to head designer."