instructors

“My favorite thing about teaching is the feeling I get when someone lights up and says, ‘Oh, I get it.’ To share that with someone else and see them feel joy over creating something beautiful; that’s why I do it. The joy and understanding of how you got there is what it’s about.”  

For the 30 years Andrea Olney-Wall has taught art classes at Maryland Hall, she’s ended every class the same way: with an art show. “It’s really important to reward kids for their work,” she says and so on the last day of class she hosts a reception with food and a display of the students’ self-selected best work. Olney-Wall’s own passion for art took off in the 5th grade making doll clothes, weaving belts and creating all kinds of things by hand. “I would see something in a museum like an African belt and go home and try to re-create it,” Olney-Wall says. When asked what inspired her arts career, she reflects for a moment and says, “My grandfather was an artist and even though I didn’t get to meet him, I inherited several of his paintings. I think that’s where it came from.”

Olney-Wall continued her path as an artist through high school and college where her fiber sculptures, weavings and paintings were featured in many shows. Alongside her visual art, Olney-Wall was also a dancer. When she reached a point in college where she had to choose between art or dance, she chose art. “I have a Bachelor’s in Fine Art, not in Art Education because I never believed in telling a child their work wasn’t good enough for an A. I found the grading process counterproductive to how you should feel when you create art,” she says. After graduating from the University of Iowa, Olney-Wall and a friend opened a Fiber Arts supply store and Gallery in Iowa City, IA. Six years later, she met her husband and moved to the Annapolis area and began teaching at Maryland Hall in 1986.

Her first classes at Maryland Hall included tapestry weaving, graphic novellas for kids, clothing design for children and acrylic painting. For nine years, Olney-Wall was also an Artist In Resident with a weaving studio and painting studio that she kept with open doors as much as possible while raising two young daughters. “I’ve never had a day where I didn’t want to go to work,” she says. When asked what students can expect in her classes, Olney-Wall says, “Students will find something, a feeling, they can’t get doing any other kind of thing – except maybe from a dance class – and they will improve immediately, learning more than they can use. It’s all up to them; I’m just showing the way.”

In Olney-Wall’s Open Studio classes, students come in with work they’ve started or ideas for new things. She guides them with questions like what are you doing, are you having trouble and what about trying this? The supportive and open environment helps students take a step back and focus on making their work better. For students who don’t know where to start, she employs a trick, “I have them paint with their opposite hand so they lose control and get a little looser.” This semester she’ll introduce new pastel and fiber arts open studios.

Olney-Wall’s past students have gone on to become Elementary Art teachers, parents who bring their students back for classes and, in the case of Christian Siriano, an internationally known fashion designer. “If you love what you do, you’ll succeed and if you love what you’re working on, you’ll be happy,” Olney-Wall says. When she isn’t teaching at Maryland Hall, Olney-Wall can be found creating in her home studio and working on a set of educational books for drawing, painting and pastel. But you’ll have to take a class with her while you can…she and her husband have a dream to move to Greece or Italy where they’ll host week-long workshops for travelers.

By Leslie Dolsak

For nearly 40 years John Ebersberger has had a home at Maryland Hall, his favorite places being rooms 213 and 214, the two north-light studios. Despite the fact he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Ebersberger’s artistic abilities took shape at Maryland Hall, first as a student then as a teacher.

Ebersberger recalls with enthusiasm the pivotal moment that drew him to Maryland Hall. Shortly after graduating college, he and a friend went to a sketch group at Weems Creek Community Center. He spotted an artist working and was completely awestruck by his work. “I remember saying, ‘can you teach me how to draw?’ The artist was Cedric Egeli, who happened to be teaching at Maryland Hall in the late ‘70s.  Ebersberger quickly enrolled in his portrait and figure drawing classes.

“It was really just mind-blowing. I was in my early 20’s and to have that gift to study with a really gifted and important artist was phenomenal,” said Ebersberger, noting that Egeli’s instruction permeated throughout the Maryland Hall community. His key students later became impactful instructors -- including the late Lee Boynton and Bonnie Roth Anderson.

In 1985, Ebersberger started teaching at Maryland Hall along with Josephine Beebe who was also influenced by Egeli’s instruction. A number of Maryland Hall’s Visual Arts teachers then took the next step in advancing their artistic knowledge by studying color with Henry Hensche --  then in his mid-80s -- at the Cape School of Art. “I remember Cedric bringing Henry down to visit my studio [at Maryland Hall] to show him my work around 1983/84.” Clearly an unforgettable memory for Ebersberger and a turning point in his work.

Passing Down the Potent Brew

“It was a wow!” recalled Ebersberger.  Hensche was originally Charles Hawthorne’s teaching assistant in the 1920’s. (Hawthorne was a noted painter who founded the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899.) “He was somebody who arced back to a whole different time period. It shaped my entire career and my entire artistic life. Between the classical realism of Egeli and the impressionist color of Hensche, it’s a potent brew,” Ebersberger said.

It’s that potent brew Ebersberger himself exudes that keeps students, professionals, hobbyists and retirees coming back for in the classes he teaches at Maryland Hall. A backbone steeped in artistic wisdom that Emily Garvin, Maryland Hall’s Vice President of Programs says will continue with vigor. “Several of John’s students have evolved into fantastic teaching artists and accomplished artists. Our aim is to keep connecting these artists with the community through our classes and exhibits.”

One such artist who promises to pass down this “potent brew” of artistic wisdom is Melissa Gryder, once an Ebersberger student, is now teaching Visual Arts at Maryland Hall. Gryder remembers very clearly how her life and career dramatically changed after meeting Ebersberger. A graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA, Gryder was just five-years out of school and had just moved to Annapolis.  As a gift, her husband bought her a figure drawing class at Maryland Hall with Ebersberger.  “It was like walking into the art class that I always dreamed of,” recounted Gryder. “There were full-time professional artists working alongside novices.  I was incredibly impressed by the caliber of work going on in that class.”

Gryder started taking multiple painting classes with Ebersberger and was introduced to the teachings of Henry Hensche, the Cape School, and the Egelis. She was flabbergasted by the thriving Annapolis Impressionism scene. “My entire career shifted. I took as many classes as I could,” said Gryder.  She began delving into plein air painting, exploring color and figurative and portrait work as well as discovering a new love for the palette knife. Gryder continued, “I had finally found a place to learn all of the things that had been missing. John is the most influential art teacher I have had.”

No Distance too Far for Learning

In addition to his impact on Gryder, Ebersberger has many other ecstatic fans and class regulars. He cites one man who, for the past eight years, has been driving two and a half hours from Pennsylvania every Monday to take his class. He even comes early to help Ebersberger set up the classroom.

“Instructors like John demonstrate the tenacity and personal commitment to living and working as an artist through their authentic exchange with students,” said Garvin. “All of our instructors are passionate about sharing their artistic skills with the community. It takes years of dedication and discipline to become a teaching artist that will draw the attention of students regionally.”

“I’ve had people fly up from Florida and the Carolinas. I had a guy email me recently from Belgium who was going to be Alexandria, Virginia, and he wanted to take a class from me,” Ebersberger said, noting people seek him out because he was a student of Hensche.  

While the demand for Ebersberger’s classes is certainly flattering, it’s actually teaching that helps him hone his craft. “You’re clarifying what you’re doing and what you are trying to impart.”

Ebersberger has taught many workshops throughout the country and the world, but says Maryland Hall sets itself apart. “It’s a special integration. It’s been really neat because of the Symphony and the Ballet being here. At various times I’ve painted ballerinas and musicians who have performed here. [I have] the ability to teach without a lot of constrictions or demands on a style or approach.”

The freedom to teach was the biggest learning benefit Gryder reaped from Maryland Hall. “My academic experience focused on more abstract ideas. John taught me how to actually observe life and paint to create a mood, not just how to copy something.”

Precisely, the benefit Ebersberger clung to when he stumbled upon the riches within the large brick building, formerly Annapolis High School. “The education I got here [Maryland Hall] was the traditional education system. When I was in art school there was nothing like this. Maryland Hall was on the vanguard of what was going to happen in New York with this really intense re-visitation of classical realism.”

Preserving the Quality of What We Already Have

As Maryland Hall approaches its 40th Anniversary (in 2019), Ebersberger’s only wish for Maryland’s Hall is to preserve what works, tipping his hat, for example, to the ancient easels. “Sometimes it’s not what you do but what you don’t do. To hold on to that. To not always think you have to be moving ahead with the newest and the best, when the best might be right under your nose and you don’t even know it’s there sometimes.”

The nuances of life being right under one’s nose is exactly what Gryder pointed to as Ebersberger’s strength as a teacher. “John inspired me to notice subtle color and atmospheric changes that resulted in me being more aware of the beauty surrounding us,” Gryder explained. Her hope? To pass down to her new flock of students the timeless traditions and community connectivity that the Maryland Hall’s greats instilled in her.

 

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