'Simple Joy': Art Teacher Taps Students' Hidden Talents
An art teacher’s devotion to her students has resulted in exceptional works from what some may consider a surprising source.
Terry Haney Hardison, a retired Moore County middle school teacher who now works at the Monarch Creative Arts and Community Center (MCACC) in Southern Pines, began her job just last April. But in that short period of time, she has transformed her students from having a rudimentary level of creativity to becoming bona fide artists who exhibit and sell their works.
“The whole experience has been awesome for their self esteem,” said Hardison of the 50 adults with “intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse challenges” who regularly attend art classes at the center. “When I first began here, I assessed and interviewed all who were interested in art, and I asked them if they considered themselves to be artists. All replied ‘no,’ but after studying their craft, creating pieces and selling their work, that self-perception has begun to change.”
Hardison, a Moore County native, said that teaching has been beneficial for her as well.
“This has been the most wonderful, fulfilling experience of my life,” she said. “I knew that these students, who are appreciative, loving, motivated and driven, could do the work because the talent is there. They just needed a teacher.”
The 12,000-square-foot center, located at 1662 Richards St. in Southern Pines, provides a pottery studio and kiln, a dance studio, fitness space, a full kitchen, and conference and meeting rooms in addition to the art studio. A gift shop is open to the public that sells decorative wreaths, gift baskets and unique seasonal items along with the art students’ works.
“People come into the center and see the students’ art on the walls, and they think it is a professional art exhibit,” Hardison said. “And it’s true. They are professionals.”
Danielle, a student at the Monarch Center, said she visits the art classroom “daily” to practice her craft.
“I do beadwork, painting and collages, and I create necklaces too,” she said. “Terry helps me a lot. She guides me.”
Jim Kelley, Monarch’s chief operating officer, said he “marveled” at the talent that Dalton and others have helped bring out in their students.
“The MCACC was developed to foster an environment where local people with disabilities could learn, explore and develop new skills through various cultural and artistic opportunities,” Kelley said. “Local artists like Terry and others, including area dance choreographer Diana Turner-Forte, have been a tremendous addition. They have been able to bring their extraordinary talents to Monarch to successfully nurture the creativity of the people we support.
“They have helped them to tap into their unique and wonderful talents to create beautiful and meaningful art. I marvel at their work, which exhibits emerging creativity, confidence and simple joy.”
Hardison’s friend Della Dennis, of Southern Pines, said she had a “mind flip” when she first viewed the students’ art.
“Terry invited me to come by Monarch for lunch one day, and then invited me to her class to view the artwork,” Dennis said. “As a friend, she knows my appreciation of nontraditional art and wanted me to see what her students were doing.
“The afternoon I spent in her classroom changed my perceptions forever, a shift that began as soon as I saw some art hanging in the hallway. Because of my visit, my belief in the transformational power of art became even stronger.”
Dennis purchased some “lovely,” student-made Christmas tree ornaments and plans to return for more.
“Many with developmental disabilities can hold down a job, and some of the students at the Monarch Center do work part time, some doing work around the center itself. Most are not able to work because their abilities are severely limited, yet they can create.”
Hardison invites everyone to visit the Center’s gift shop, where they can see the works firsthand.
“We hope that everyone will come visit our gift shop, which contains an assortment of Christmas wreaths, gift baskets, decorations and more,” Hardison said. “Our art gallery contains craft items including jewelry, ornaments and paintings, all created by the people Monarch serves. These will make great gift items and are all reasonably priced.”
The Center is open from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
An affiliate chapter of The Arc of North Carolina and The Arc of the United States, Monarch literature states that the organization “provides support statewide to thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse challenges.”
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@thepilot. com.
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