Alumni Profile: Sarah Teasley
Sarah Teasley (MFA in Art, emphasis in Ceramics ’10)
Art Department Chair & Gallery Director
Hinds Community College
How did your love of ceramics start?
My love for ceramics began when I took a short summer class at Pickenpaugh Pottery in Madison between 7th and 8th grade. My next opportunity to make anything out of mud did not occur until I enrolled as an art major at Hinds Community College.
Why did you decide to study ceramics at UM?
Honestly, I was hell bent on getting out of MS for grad school, and it was only because of a potter friend that I considered UM. My friend was sure that studying with Matt would be a great fit for me. So, begrudgingly and after a tour of approx 10 other graduate programs out of state, I set up a meeting with Matt. As they say, “the rest is history.” I liked the department (the facilities were impressive), but more than that, Matt made me feel like I would really be challenged, and he did this by asking me one simple question: “What if you made that out of clay?” He was referring to a 3-dimensional weaving I made as an undergrad at Delta State using jute and hemp. That question was the most memorable part of my entire meeting. His investment in ceramics and the program at UM was unlike the investments of any other instructors I had met with during my tour of grad schools. When he called to offer me a spot in the program, I knew it would be a mistake to turn it down.
What is a favorite memory of working with Matt Long?
There are so many memorable experiences. Wood firing in St. Petersburg, FL at the Morean Center for Clay is near the top of the list. A group of seven students (grads and undergrads) made the trek. During our time in Florida, I had the privilege of assisting Matt with firing, and I had the opportunity to interact with nationally and internationally recognized artists. More specifically, my favorite memory from that time in St. Pete is the early mornings next to the kiln while Matt played the banjo.
The most important lessons that Matt (and the rest of my art professors) taught me was the importance of asking good questions, to be nice, that actions speak louder than words, to work hard for the things that matter, and to be honest in the pursuit of my passions. He used to frequently tell us, “the answer to the question is never the answer, it’s always the question.” I often hear him in my voice when I’m teaching as well as in my own studio practice. Matt has continued to provide support and advice since my completion of the program, and he has always lead by example. I am very grateful for the opportunities that I was afforded while at UM and for Matt’s commitment to education and the field of ceramics.
Given that you are an educator and gallery director, how do you communicate to young people the value of studying arts in today’s world?
As an educator and gallery director, I emphasize the fact that studying art enables us to better understand one another and develop empathy. Studying art provides insight on who we are and who we might become. I do this by telling stories that help students connect to what they see, and by engaging them (whether in Art Appreciation or a studio class like Ceramics) in the practice of making something with their hands and their minds.