She comes from a long line of artists and creative thinkers. That’s why the newest member of the Ensworth community fits in so perfectly as the new ceramics and art teacher at Ensworth High School. Meet Audry Deal-McEver!
You are new to Ensworth, tell us a little about your background and how you came to teach art.
I was born into a creative family. My dad is a professional guitarist and my mom has a degree in painting and worked as a graphic designer for many years. Two of my grandparents were photographers, and my other grandfather builds grandfather clocks. Growing up, I took 14 years of very serious classical piano lessons, but decided just before college that my real passion was in the visual arts. I started college at Ohio University as a photography major. I fell in love with the darkroom and shooting film. My sophomore year, I took my first ceramics class and ended up getting hooked. I switched majors and ended up with a degree in ceramics with a second emphasis in photography.
I never planned to go into teaching, but it has always been part of my life. Even when I was 10, I taught piano lessons to the younger children next door for $5. I taught at youth programs every summer while I was in college and eventually started to teach adults. I ended up getting offered a job at Vanderbilt University’s Sarratt Art Studios, which became my new artistic home for the next 5 years. I also started teaching at Cheekwood Museum of Art’s Frist Learning Center, and at Watkins College of Art, Design, and Film. In 2011 I was invited to be a visiting artist at the University of Alaska (Sitka Campus). I was a resident artist for the month of August, and taught a workshop titled “Botany and Clay.”
I had never considered becoming a full-time high school art teacher, but decided to apply for the teaching position at Ensworth to get a little more information and see what happened. I enjoyed getting to know the school, and realized it would be a really good fit of me. It was still a tough decision, since I was very happy at my current job, but I am pleased with the way things worked out. I have really enjoyed the wonderful students and facilities Ensworth has to offer. I also look forward to having some of the same students for several years and seeing their growth. This is such a wonderful learning environment, and I am honored to now be a part of it.
I have always loved teaching pottery, mostly because it’s such a difficult skill to learn. You very quickly figure out who someone really is and what their strengths and weaknesses are. No one easily masters the potter’s wheel. If a student gets discouraged easily, you get to help them build up their self confidence and learn how to work through the frustration. If someone starts off overly confident, you help them learn how to accept the initial failure and move on. Students have to practice being persistent and very active problem solvers. When they finally reach success, it is that much sweeter.
I also really enjoy teaching historic photography techniques. Many people overlook film and working in the darkroom these days (since they certainly aren’t instant or easy), but this “drawback” is exactly what sparks my attraction. Students must be patient and hands on through the entire process, while making their own decisions at every step along the way. There is also opportunity for surprises. Sometimes an unexpected “problem” will take a project in an entirely new direction that ends up being even more interesting. It becomes a wonderful metaphor for life.
Your own art is pretty spectacular, what are some of the ways you like to express yourself in your free time?
I enjoy using my grandparents old film cameras. I still have the 35mm Leica that my grandfather shot in WWII, and the cameras from their portrait studio. I love traveling and taking photos that document foreign landscapes and cultures. I also have a full clay studio at home where I enjoy making both functional pottery and more sculptural pieces inspired by endangered plans. You can see pictures on my website www.AudryDealMcEver.com
If you could be a fly on the wall in any Ensworth classroom which would it be and why?
I would love to sit in on any of the high school history classes. I am a bit of a history nerd, and my most memorable high school teacher taught my APUS history class.
Who is the next faculty member at the Lower School (Red Gables) you would like to see featured?