A True Work of Art
Benjamin Franklin once said "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." We have all had that special person in our lives that has involved us in our passions, be it a parent, teacher, religious leader or even a friend. For many of the young people on the island, past, present and future, Frederica "Freddie" Carson, art teacher at Hilton Head Prep, has been a beacon, guiding them through the confusion and angst that we all recognize as growing up, lending an ear for listening, a shoulder to cry on, giving advice and direction in life and in art.all the while creating an intimate, intellectual environment, sprinkled with imagination and whimsy.
Freddie's teaching career began when a group of women from the offices of Sea Pines Plantation began a school, the Sea Pines Montessori School, at the request of Charles Fraser, the real estate developer whose vision transformed Hilton Head Island from the sparsely populated island into what it has evolved to today. Her love of art was apparent at an early age. In first grade she was always getting into trouble writing on walls or cutting patterns out of socks and bedspreads. "My first art teacher came into the classroom and I remember thinking 'that's something I can do?' I was always the art kid."
For more than 25 years, Freddie changed the lives of students in her classes at school, in after school art classes, which she held in her own studio at her house, rattled with laughter and snacks, and in her Sunday school classes. In 2005, Freddie retired from teaching. Her retirement, however, wasn't long lived. "I was always substituting and when the art position opened back up, the school asked me to come back since 'I was always here anyway.' I'd see a student start a project and just have to see it through to the end. I'd come to miss it so much. I didn't hesitate to say yes!"
Freddie Carson inspires her students by allowing them to choose the direction they want to go and then facilitates it. "My favorite question is 'what if'-'what if I do this' or 'what if I try this?' It's the most stimulating thought. You learn more from failure than always playing it safe. It allows them to go above what they believe they are capable of." Freddie keeps her classroom and studio stocked with tools that aid in unstoppable creativity. "I love colored pencils. They are a great precursor to painting, but I always try to keep as many different types of mediums and materials around to encourage students to try them. I think it's more adventurous."
"A student of mine, a 4th grader, was quiet and self conscious. He always created incredible drawings, really fantastic and from his heart. I constantly told him how great they were. There was an elective class and some students, 5th graders, were working on a banner. I told him to go over to see if they needed any help. He started helping with the banner and soon the 5th graders were yelling 'Mrs. Carson...look at these drawings! They're so good!' He just beamed. It was extremely rewarding to see the difference in him. His art gave him a certain identity." Freddie reminisced, warmly.
Even teaching Sunday school became a way to encourage her students to express themselves artistically. Abandoning the "norm", Freddie tied their lessons to art, such as teaching calligraphy, which showed the students how Bibles were penned in those times and how every word was carefully and painstakingly written down, all the while creating a fun, comfortable environment for the kids to talk to one another and ask questions.
"The kids keep me going. If there's a fire in the belly, it's hard to turn it off." Freddie said, her eyes flashing with the passion she undoubtedly passes on to her students. She relays story after story of past and present students, talking excitedly about their work, remembering every piece they had created, making them feel on top of the world. How do I know? I was once her student, and during the course of our conversation, she described many of my pieces with such accuracy, I couldn't believe it. I was in awe of her recollection and then it hit me. She was and had always been just as involved as her students in their work, enjoying the journey of self, and artistic exploration of each student unfolding, as much as they were enjoying living it. I am the artist and especially the person I am today because of Freddie Carson and I know that she has touched the lives and helped mold the character, discipline and desire of many people, both young and old.
What inspires you the most:
The kids I teach!
What were you up to while you were retired? I love to knit and sew. I never do it by the patterns. I took a pottery class at Appalachian State in the summer and I went to the Art Educators Week at SCAD, which was great! We were always learning something to pass on. My husband and I also volunteered at York Place, a home for abandoned, abused and at risk children in York, SC. They provide stability, counseling and care for these children. It's truly an amazing place.
Little known fact: There is an award named for her at Hilton Head Prep-The Frederica Carson Art Purchase Award.