A CHANCE meeting with a professor decades ago set a Caerleon woman on a path which was to change her life.

Hilda Smith, born Hilda Witheridge, left school aged just 14.

Married very young she had two children but divorced a few years later. The young mother went on to meet her second husband and have two more children.

These children were always the centre of her life and her own lack of formal education was never considered a priority.

That is until, while working as a companion for an older lady, she was introduced to professor Eric Wright who specialised in pathology.

South Wales Argus: Hilda SmithHilda Smith (Image: Supplied)

Despite the total differences in their respective backgrounds the pair became friends and he encouraged Mrs Smith to take firstly a GCSE in English and then an A-level in art.

This led to Mrs Smith studying for a degree in art as a mature student at the University in Caerleon. And that is when her life changed and art and teaching art became her total focus.

After leaving university she set up Hera Art, a now well established art school which has taught hundreds and hundreds of people over the years from children to people in their 90s.

“It was all down to Eric,” said Mrs Smith who didn’t get her first box of paints until she was in her 40s but who is now celebrating 25 years of running Hera Art.

Studying for her A-level in art opened up a whole new world for the mother of four.

“I just absorbed it all. And I loved it,” said the now 74-year-old.

Mrs Smith and Professor Wright set up the then small business Hera Art together running out of a tiny premises in Charles Street. When he died in 2009, the artist and teacher keeps the business going herself.

When expansion came Hera Art moved to Blaen y Pant Centre in Malpas.

“It was a great space,” added Mrs Smith, who then really cemented her reputation as an artist and art teacher, which she still works at today as she celebrates Hera Art’s 25th anniversary.

“I have met so many fantastic people over the years from all walks of life and all nationalities.”

South Wales Argus: The Hera Art Centre in MalpasThe Hera Art Centre in Malpas (Image: Supplied)

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mrs Smith set up a studio classroom in the garage of her home in Caerleon, where she now holds regular art classes.

She is holding a 25th birthday event at the Blaen y Pant Centre, Malpas on Saturday, November 18, from 3.30pm to 8pm.

Former and current pupils are all invited to pop in during the event to enjoy refreshments and reminiscences with Hilda Smith.

Further information can be found at heraart.co.uk

Mrs Smith also runs a regular beginners’ art class on Tuesday mornings from 11.45am in Gallery 57, on Upper Dock Street, Newport. All are welcome.