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Be Driven by the Arts
The Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Awards
2013 Artist Award
Watercolor artist Mary Whyte is a teacher and author whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition. Born in Ohio in 1953, Mary Whyte graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia with a degree in fine arts and a teaching certificate. A resident of Johns Island, South Carolina, since the early 1990s, 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 South Carolina’s Greenville County Museum of Art and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. Her paintings have been featured in International Artist, Artist, American Artist, Watercolor, American Collector and numerous other publications.
Soon after moving to the Charleston area, Whyte met Alfreda LaBoard and a group of seniors who gathered weekly to quilt and socialize in a small rural church on Bohicket Road. Descendants of Lowcountry slaves, these longtime Johns Island residents influenced Whyte’s life and art in unexpected ways. In 2003, her paintings of LaBoard and other Gullah descendants of coastal Carolina slaves culminated in Alfreda's World, a museum exhibition and book that received both regional and national recognition. “Down Bohicket Road,” Whyte’s most recent publication, includes two decades of watercolors and continues the story of her relationship with these extraordinary women against the backdrop of the ongoing commercial development of Johns Island. As shared through Whyte’s touching words and vibrant paintings, “Down Bohicket Road” celebrates a unique way of coastal life and a remarkable friendship. All of the royalties from the book will go to church and senior center that inspired Whyte’s work.
Whyte is highly sought after as a teacher and shares her knowledge and talent with others through private lessons and workshops. Her handbooks entitled Watercolor for the Serious Beginner and Painting Portraits and Figures in Watercolor reveal her passion for the medium and her willingness to encourage others to achieve success in their art.
Whyte’s desire to recognize the value of art teachers led her to establish the Mary Whyte Art Educator Award in 2007. The award highlights a school visual arts teacher in S.C. school districts who has demonstrated superior commitment to their students and to their craft. The award comes with a $2,500 cash prize and is presented annually by the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston.