WINTHROP — Winthrop art teacher Lisa Gilman said she has seen a lot in 25 years as an educator, but never an artist so gifted as fourth-grader Adrien Polky.

And when Polky, 10, discovered his great-grandfather’s name carved into the large desk the boy had been using for two years, Gilman and Polky were shocked.

“That was truly a magical moment,” Gilman said. “It gave us both goosebumps.”

“It was better than being at Disneyland,” Polky added.

Polky’s great-grandfather, Wesley Wayne Healey, who went by Wayne Healey, also began sketching at a young age and without formal lessons. This creativity later led to woodworking. Healey built large, detailed ship and plane models, and taught himself acrylic and oil painting.

Adrien’s mother, Morgan Polky, said Healey mostly painted coastal and country landscapes but also did portraits. Many of his paintings and woodworking projects are now displayed in frames or cases at homes of Healey’s family members.


Morgan Polky said her son never had a chance to meet his great-grandfather, who died of lung cancer in 2005.

She also said that when she learned of her son’s discovery, she was brought to tears.

“I mean, what are the odds that my son, while doing art in this random room at the school (the old high school), comes across his great-grandfather, who was a talented artist,” Morgan Polky said. “It made me cry because it felt to me like possibly a sign from my grandfather that he’s still present and watching over my son, and like an encouragement for Adrien to keep on creating.”

Winthrop Grade School student Adrien Polky found his great grandfather Wayne Healey’s name carved into the drawer of the large desk the boy uses during art class. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

She said her grandfather was well-known in Winthrop, and those who knew him were excited to hear the story.

“To them, it felt like a sign,” she said, “and it sort of comforted them to know his presence lives on, even if it’s just in a table in the school.”

Like his great-grandfather, Adrien Polky has a natural inclination toward things creative.


Polky’s daycare provider, Donna Flint, noted his advanced drawing skills when he was just 3 years old.

“It wasn’t until kindergarten that his teacher, Holly Stoneton, reached out to me and told me that his drawing skills were far beyond kindergarten level,” Morgan Polky said.

Although the school did not have a gifted and talented program for the arts, officials were eager to create one for Adrien Polky and other students.

From there, Gilman and Polky have met once a week to work on art.

Polky mainly works in pencil and specializes in drawing lively pop culture figures and cartoon characters spanning several decades. He also creates caricatures of classmates and teachers.

During one of their earlier sessions, Gilman said, a first-grade Polky told her he loved actor and comedian Robin Williams. She pulled up a photograph of Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire from the 1993 movie of the same name, and Polky was able to quickly recreate the image.


“Really, what I try to do is support his gift,” Gilman said. “I try really hard not to squelch the creativity, but allow the creativity to move in his direction because the gift is really strong.”

Along with Robin Williams, Adrien Polky’s works have included characters from “The Simpsons,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Stand By Me,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Wizard of Oz” and singer and ukulele player Tiny Tim, who Polky dressed as recently for Halloween.

“He’s always started with the eyes,” Gilman said. “He starts differently than any other kids. That’s where his true gift comes in, with the expression of people and capturing the eyes.”

Adrien Polky’s ambitions range from having his art displayed at a gallery to creating a cartoon or graphic novel. He said he would like to create a cartoon that children and adults can enjoy. He said he is also considering a future in acting or playing the piano.

“He’s very kind,” Gilman said. “All the kids in his class really love him. They really adore him and go to him because he is one of the sweetest kids there. This has been consistent since kindergarten and first grade. He constantly thinks about the other kids, and doesn’t care what the other kids think about his work or if he’s saying how much he loves his mom.”

Morgan Polky said her son’s desk discovery has brought much-needed hope during uncertain times.

“Despite these hard times, magic lives on in schools,” she said, “and with the right support and people, our kids’ days, although hard at times, have pieces of magic and wonder sprinkled around, if you look for it.”

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