Greenville arts teacher receives Mary Whyte Art Educator Award

 Donna Shank Major and Mary Whyte

Donna Shank Major, left, with Mary Whyte

Applications for the next award are due June 1, 2015.

Donna Shank Major, an instructor at the Fine Arts Center of Greenville, is this year’s recipient of the annual Mary Whyte Art Educator Award. Established in 2007, the award highlights high school visual arts teachers in South Carolina school districts who have demonstrated superior commitment to their students and to their craft. The award is accompanied by a cash prize of $2,500 and is administered and presented annually by the Gibbes Museum of Art. The awards were announced at the South Carolina Art Education Association annual meeting in Greenville on Nov. 21.

“I am so pleased to announce Donna Shank Major as this year’s recipient of the Art Educator Award,” said Whyte. “Together with the other two state finalists, Josh Drews (Spring Valley High School, Columbia) and Mary Catherine Peeples (Wando High School, Charleston), Ms. Major represents the finest this state has to offer in arts education. South Carolina has most definitely set the bar high in fine arts instruction.”

At the Fine Arts Center, Major is the instructor for 2D and 3D design courses and coordinates the Explore the Arts summer program. She also teaches in the ARMES program, a tuition-free program designed to meet the needs of students in grades four through eight who have demonstrated outstanding talents and an interest in theatre, visual arts, strings or dance. Major grew up in Greenville and was an art student at Fine Arts Center for three years. She graduated from Converse College and continued studies at the college to earn a Masters in Education. She has been teaching art for 18 years in Greenville and Spartanburg counties and works in a variety of media and techniques including clay, printmaking, painting, and bookmaking. She has received many grants, including a Fulbright Memorial Fund grant to study in Japan and fellowships to study at Arrowmont School of Crafts and Penland. Her work has been exhibited in shows at the Art Bomb, Open Studios with the Metropolitan Arts Council, the Belton Juried Professional Show, the Anderson Art Show and the Union Juried Professional Show.

Two years ago, the award was opened to teachers statewide; Major is the first recipient from outside the Lowcountry area. The Gibbes Museum would like to increase the number of applicants, according to Curator of Education Rebecca Sailor. “There are so many teachers worth recognizing, and we want to see the award continue to grow and receive the recognition it deserves. It’s the only one of its kind in the state. Mary’s support of art educators in South Carolina is immeasurable, and the Gibbes is honored to support the award.”

Applications for the next award are due June 1, 2015. More information and the application are available online at

About Mary Whyte
Whyte is a watercolor artist, teacher and author whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition. A resident of Johns Island, S.C., Whyte garners much of her inspiration from the Gullah descendants of coastal Carolina slaves who number among her most prominent subjects. Her portraits are included in numerous corporate, private, and university collections, as well as in the permanent collections of the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Greenville County Museum of Art. Her paintings have been featured in International Artist, Artist, American Artist, Watercolor, and American Art Collector, L’Art de Aquarelle, and numerous other publications. Whyte is the author of numerous books and her work can be found at Coleman Fine Art in Charleston, where her husband, Smith Coleman, manages the gallery and makes gilded and carved frames. Whyte is the 2013 Individual Artist recipient of the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts.

About the Gibbes Museum of Art
Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905. In the fall of 2014, the Gibbes temporarily closed for major renovations and will reopen in the spring of 2016. The renovation project is designed to showcase the museum’s collection, provide visitors with a history of American art from the early colonial era to the present, and engage the public with a center for education, artist studios, lecture and event space, a museum café, and store. During the renovation the museum will offer programs such as the Insider Art Series, Art With a Twist, Art of Healing, events including the Art of Design and annual Gibbes on the Street Party, and educational offerings such as Art to Go and Eye Spy Art. Highlights of the Gibbes permanent collection can be viewed on Google Art Project at