Local artist concludes teaching career with retrospective at the Creative Arts Guild

·5 min read

May 31—Highlights from Susie Greer's decades in art education will be spotlighted in June at the Creative Arts Guild in a career retrospective, as Greer retired from teaching at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

"I really hope many of my students come, (as) I think they'll enjoy seeing (examples) of what we did in class," said Greer, who taught at multiple middle schools in Whitfield County Schools before spending her final decade at Northwest Whitfield High School. "Everything in the show is work I've done to teach art to" students, and many of her students have gone on to careers in the art world, including several as art instructors in Whitfield County Schools.

Especially as she began teaching high school students, some "even more talented than me," Greer decided to take more of a collaborative approach to her classes, "doing the projects with them," she said. Students could base their work off of her example, and "I could show them techniques," but it would also always be "their work."

Greer "was very valuable to us and really helped get the AP (Advanced Placement) Art program up and running," said Britt Adams, whose decade as principal of Northwest overlapped closely with Greer's time at the school. "She was a very versatile teacher, allowing her students to work in the areas they had passion for — from sculpture and jewelry making to traditional painting and other 2-D art forms — (and) she could help them with all of it."

Retirement can be accompanied by a trip down memory lane, but even more so for Greer, who is going through decades of art for her show at the Guild, she said.

"It's been a lot of fun to go back," and every piece presents a flood of memories.

She's especially fond of the dragon heads she created for a production by Northwest's drama department, she said.

"I'm much more of a three-dimensional person" with art, and the dragon heads proved so popular other area schools requested them for their shows.

Greer "was very helpful working with" Josh Ruben, Northwest's theater teacher and drama director, "and designed many of the sets used in his productions," said Adams, who just completed his first year as academic dean at Christian Heritage School. "She is one of those people you have to have at a high school who will jump in and help wherever needed."

Greer is "one of those people who bring beauty to the world, (and) we will miss her greatly," said Northwest's principal, Mandie Jones. "Her creativity comes with a dose of realism and sincerity."

Greer will be in attendance Friday for the official opening of her exhibition, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Guild. The public is invited to the free, family-friendly event, where light refreshments and beverages will be available.

Greer's art will be on display throughout June. The Guild's gallery is open Monday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by appointment on weekends.

Though Greer loved art from an early age, majoring in art and attempting to make it a career was "not encouraged," as career options for females were much more limited 40 years ago, she said. Many, including her father, believed females were restricted to being "teachers, secretaries" or homemakers.

Only when Greer soldered a sight onto one of her father's guns did he see the practical value of her major at the University of Georgia in jewelry design and metalwork, she recalled with a laugh.

"He could brag to all his friends about that (soldering), and he thought it was wonderful."

A great-aunt of her mother's was a silversmith, which attracted Greer to the pursuit, and Greer had her own business across from the Wink Theatre in downtown Dalton "doing custom work and stone setting" before she started teaching, she said. She quickly discovered a love for education, although it "was a transition, because — as an artist — you personalize everything, but as a teacher you have to create a space between you and the work."

Teaching was also beneficial for Greer because "you have to do it all," she said. "You can't stay in one niche," as many professional artists do.

She also offered experience invaluable to burgeoning artists, as "I could take what I knew from the real world and bring it to them," she said. For example, "I knew about marketing yourself" — and one's art — which art teachers who transition directly from being students themselves to teachers may lack.

Greer has "kept up on new trends and techniques" by studying with the Savannah College of Art and Design during summers, including trips to Hong Kong and Lacoste, France, she said.

"Those are experiences I'll never get again, and I brought that (knowledge) to the classroom."

"I loved Lacoste; if I spoke French, I probably would've stayed," she said with a laugh. "They really relish artists in France."

In retirement, she'll travel more — including visiting a sister in New Mexico — and "take in the world," she said. "I want to learn, not teach, and figure out what else there is."

"There are lots of artist colonies" and other similar entities that "I can take advantage of and do some things I've never done before," she said. "As a teacher, I believe in continuous learning" — it's the same for artists — and "I'm inspired by everything."