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Photo by K. Wilkins Photography Story by Lindsey Beasley Dianna


After losing myself for several hours

viewing “Red” Dawn Moraga’s extraordinary work, I was excited to meet her. I visited with Dawn and her family at Dawn’s home in Kill Devil Hills, where I spent time with

her, husband Roberto, and their 9 month old Marbella. Pulling into the driveway I was welcomed by the Moragas and their dog Gringo. After chatting about kids, teething babies and playing the name game, I believe we could have talked about anything at all and had wonderful conversation.

“If I’m not painting, I’m riding horses. If I’m not doing that, I’m surfing. I wish I could be one of those people who have just ONE hobby,” says Dawn. Dawn has so many talents and interests—she plays guitar, surfs with a passion, paints, sketches, and is an attentive mother to her daughter.

When asked about the name of her art company, Red Dawn Designs, she laughs and says,

“People think I named it after the Patrick Swayze movie! I never even saw that movie!” The nickname “Red” is a family affair: “Mom’s Big Red; I was Little Red.” Dawn’s

grandfather in California is also a prominent artist who specializes in portraits. “I think it runs in the family a bit, maybe skips a generation,” she tells me.

Dawn started drawing in elementary school; in third grade she and her friend Matt would

take their drawings of horses and cows and sell them at the lunch table for five cents until they had saved up enough money to buy a cookie. In later school years she would take comfort in the school’s art studio, “sneaking in” any chance she got. She later attended a branch of SUNY in upstate New York, where she began a major of fine arts. Dawn switched majors three times before transferring to Avery University, settling on a major of Equestrian Science.



Dawn first came to the Outer Banks with an equestrian friend whose parents had a home here. She got her own place to rent, moved down without knowing a soul, walked into Front Porch Café and found a job.

When asked about the

best part of living in the OBX, Dawn says, “The Outer Banks has one of the best qualities of having a network of friends— they’ve got your back here no matter what. I love my church and group of friends. People here are givers.”

Dawn was first was introduced

to Nicaragua in 2003 by two local surfers. “Noah Snyder and Craig

Watson brought back pictures from a surf camp trip while I was doing art full time. I saw pictures of scrawny little kids riding horses, and man, I wanted to move there and volunteer with orphans.”

She sold her art, saved up for the mission trip and surf camp adventure in Managua to spend

time volunteering at La Chureca—“The Dump”—one of the most heart-

wrenching pictures of

third world poverty. She met husband Roberto

when she was jogging one day on

the beach, a foreign sight to the natives of Managua. “What is she running from?” he asked his friends.

Riding through town, [her mother] marveled at Dawn’s murals covering the rundown

area. “Dawn was everywhere; it was just... her.”

Her mother visited her in Nicaragua for the first time for Dawn and Roberto’s wedding in 2009. Says her mother, “When I arrived, it seemed that all of the kids in the village were chasing after the old pickup I was riding in, just like a movie.” Riding through town, she marveled at Dawn’s murals covering the rundown area. “Dawn was everywhere; it was just... her.”

Before meeting Dawn, the children there had never even seen crayons. She describes

it as “living rough (dirt floors and no indoor plumbing), but beautiful and free. People are happier because they don’t have a lot.” She brought her love of people, art and talented use of color to a town that was very much in need of some inspiration.

When asked for a description of her artistic style, she says, “Colorful. Not straight—my

horizons aren’t straight. But in the real world nothing ever is. I can’t copy other people’s style.”

Dawn has plenty of plans in the works; she’s interested in interior design, hopes to get a studio of her own and is excited to begin using oils. “2013 and 2014 you’re going to start seeing my oil paintings. I can’t wait!” says Dawn. “I can’t get the depth I want using acrylics.”

Red Dawn Designs can be found in local businesses (like the Outer Banks Brewing Station

where she works part time), on Etsy, Fine Art America, Zinfolio, and both her Facebook and Myspace pages. She believes she could do so much more, but martialing her energy into sales is difficult.

Eventually, she would like to use art to heal people. She has a dream of getting a group of

children and volunteers to go visit CHKD’s Cancer Unit. Any interested groups or individuals can contact her on Facebook. She beams, “Kids helping kids is where it’s at.”

FALL 2013

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