Susan Morley

Fine and Performing Arts Chair

Susan Morley

The Arts at Chatham Hall from Chatham Hall on Vimeo.

What do you like about teaching at CH?

I came to Chatham Hall because I wanted to be part of a school honestly committed to developing and improving fine and performing arts.  Chatham Hall’s arts are not just talking points, but truly supported by both the administration and the school community.  In all areas of the arts, I have witnessed growth in the programs and dedication to providing the most challenging and exciting possibilities for our girls.

Our department has an enthusiastic willingness for collaboration.  This cross-pollination creates a far richer experience for all involved across disciplines.  As the Arts Chair, in my fortieth year of teaching, I am very happy to be part of this exciting time for the arts at Chatham Hall.  I think of my work as a mentor to support and foster risk-taking and growth for both my department and my students.

What are your goals in reaching students?

My primary goal for students in visual arts is to guide them to uncover and discover their, often buried, spark of creativity.  My mandate is to help them find that spark and blow the air of possibility on it.  The majority of my students enter the studio with words of defeat on their lips.  ” I can’t do art.”  “I have never been good at this…”  “I can’t even draw a stick figure.”  I work to show them that “words become your actions” and outlaw self-negating talk in the studio.

In my studio, I have large, hanging fish that carry my “art mantras” from their mouths and remind students daily of simple lessons that can help them find and create authentic art.  I ask them to embrace the “happy accident” and look at a “goof” or some misstep as an opportunity that actually may lead their artistic investigation into another realm.  They are told to keep exploring a piece and see what evolves.

“Be the clay” hangs from another fish to remind my ceramic students to connect viscerally with the clay and remember the lessons from Native American potters who respect and “talk” to the clay, holding a deep reverence for the gift Mother Nature has given them.  They learn that they possess the best tools possible with the potential of their hands in clay.  There is magic to be found!

Foremost of all is “Risk failure to find success!”  It is important to step off that cliff into uncertainty and out of ones comfort zone to grow and stretch both as an individual and an artist.  If my students learn nothing else, I want them to carry that message with them always.  Failure is an important part of the learning process and is far more instructive than an “easy trophy.”  Aim for nothing and you will find it every time.  I want my students to grow as risk–takers in pursuit of their authentic visions in the arts and through life.

What are some of your interests / hobbies outside of teaching?

Outside of teaching, I am a practicing artist, exploring primarily figurative drawing and a wide range of painting.  Working with my hands is paramount and I love to learn and explore varied media and approaches, from glass blowing to jewelry fabrication.  I consider myself a life-long student and adore exploring new places, foods, and cultures.  Travel is a passion and I seize every opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture.  I like the challenge of using my Spanish and communicating on a deeper level whenever possible.  Travel takes me to nature’s bounty of wonderful vistas as well as museums and theatre.  If I cannot be traveling, the printed word takes me “away” in a wide range of reading interests from history to mysteries.  Life informs my art and every experience makes me the richer for it.