Advanced Search | Search A!:
Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Teacher Heidi McElroy: Artistic Visionary

Peter Morgan, a former student of Heidi McElroy, recently installed his work at The Arts Depot in Abingdon, Va. He is currently an adjunct assistant professor in ceramics and drawing at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
Peter Morgan, a former student of Heidi McElroy, recently installed his work at The Arts Depot in Abingdon, Va. He is currently an adjunct assistant professor in ceramics and drawing at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
Additional photos below »


Heidi McElroy has been an art teacher in the Washington County (Va.) Public School System since 1993.

As Fine Arts Chairman (since 1996), she oversees a department of two visual arts teachers, one band instructor and one choral director who has an accompanist. She chaired the Washington County Art Teachers Association from 1994-96.

Previously she taught art in Fairfax County, Va., as well as California and New York. She was named Southwest Virginia Art Education Association's Secondary Art Educator of the Year in 1999 and was nominated for Abingdon High School Educator of the Year in 1998 and 2004.

She received her B.S. in Art Education from State University College in New Paltz, N.Y. She did additional graduate work at various colleges before graduating summa cum laude with a Master's in Art Education from Tusculum College, Greeneville, Tenn.

I am very proud of the many students who have passed through the program here at Abingdon High School over the last 17 years. Some are art professors and teachers, studio artists, and commercial artists. Many have gained a deeper appreciation for the arts and have enriched their lives through the arts. I am pleased when my students tell me of the things they noticed and did because of their exposure here at AHS.

Joe Blackwell has a master's in painting and is seeking work as an art instructor at the college level.

Kyle Buckland is a plein air landscape painter who has a studio in Abingdon, where his father operates Blue Windmill Galleries. He has worked with oils since he was 16, stretching and priming his canvases and hauling his gear into fields and woods to capture something new. Now age 25, Kyle figures he has completed more than 1,000 paintings of the Appalachian landscape, many now in private and public collections across the country. Kyle says, "Mrs. McElroy is a very inspiring teacher whose ability to 'think outside the box' when planning her lessons was a great asset to my early education as an artist. Often her teaching extended outside of the 50 minutes allotted for our class. She encouraged us to bring in work we did outside her class and never hesitated to give extra pointers on how to improve not only our skills needed for creating art, but also the importance of self-promotion and communication needed to market our work.",

Leila Cartier graduated in May 2009 from The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Ill. Her paintings have been described as "provocative, large-scale, lavishly-colored and wildly-brushed." She says her most recent work "occupies a space between photography and painting to emphasize the blur between what is believed to be real and unreal." Her artwork has been exhibited nationwide, including a "Wide-Eyed Garden" show at the William King Museum in Abingdon (February-June, 2009), and may be found in local galleries such as the Blue Windmill in Abingdon. Leila remembers McElroy as "very committed to the arts. She encouraged us to apply for things outside of school and displayed our art inside the school... When discussing Art History, Mrs. McElroy also introduced us to contemporary and modern art, so we could see what's†being done currently to apply to our own projects."

Peter Morgan currently has an installation of his work at The Arts Depot in Abingdon (see page __). He is currently an adjunct assistant professor in ceramics and drawing at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Since receiving his MFA in Ceramics from Alfred University in 2005, Peter has lectured and exhibited both nationally and internationally.

He recalls that McElroy. founded the Abingdon High School chapter of the National Art Honor Society; "for myself and many of my fellow inductees, that was the only honor society that we would ever be a part of. This certainly gave all of us a sense of pride when we donned our rainbow-colored tassels and cords during graduation. This went way beyond the call of duty as it required her to take on additional responsibilities including budgets and meetings. I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, as so often is the case. I now realize that this was a significant step toward creating a vibrant community in the classroom. I also remember her pushing us to make interesting projects, that varied in scope and material. Even with a limited budget, we managed to learn about things ranging from ceramics, to printmaking, to bookbinding. Mrs. McElroy was someone who could really see the potential in students and push them to do the best that they could. By mixing up the projects and media, she created opportunities for students to succeed that would have been daunted by just drawing and painting."

Editor's Note: McElroy also inspired her own son, Christopher McElroy, a glass artist in Seattle, Wash., where he has served as a teaching assistant at the Pilchuck Glass School. He received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and has studied extensively at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina.


— Teacher Bandy Brownlee: Inspiring Voices

Leila Cartier is a visual artist and the interim Curator of Fine Art at Willliam King Museum, Abingdon, Va. She remembers McElroy as "very committed to the arts." Shown is "Orchid Mantis," one of Cartier's paintings, which are described as "provocative, lavishly-colored and wildly-brushed."