September 27, 2013

‘I really feel honored’

Husband-wife duo wins with mentor-inspired pottery

By Christopher Smith

— When Dan and Mary DeFoor, newlyweds at the time, first started teaching at the same school in Douglasville several decades ago, they “needed some help getting started,” Mary DeFoor said.

And help they got in the form of veteran teacher Carolyn Hanson who helped mentor the two teachers. More than 30 years later, those same two teachers, now living in Resaca, honored Hanson as the inspiration of three pottery pieces.

The couple’s work won them first place and a $1,000 prize at the first “Art of Giving” contest at the Dalton Freight Depot Thursday evening, hosted by the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. The exhibit featured photos, paintings and the DeFoor’s pottery. The theme of the contest was art that “represented the spirit of community,” Foundation President David Aft said.

Out of ten works, four finalists were presented. But it was the “inspiration” of the DeFoor couple’s work that stood out, Aft said. The judges, kept anonymous, were also impressed by the pottery because they had received so many “flat” 2D works, Aft said.

“They (the DeFoor couple) really put a lot into it,” he said.

Dan DeFoor said hearing his name as the winner of the exhibition was “overwhelming.”

“It’s so exciting (to see) how the arts play such an integral part of community,” he said.

When the married couple first sat down at the potter’s wheel several weeks ago, Dan DeFoor said they juggled a lot of ideas for inspiration. Two of the works were inscribed with words like “believe” and “together,” but one featured lyrics to the song “No Man Is an Island,” based on the famous poem by John Donne.

“We played with a lot of ideas. Then we thought about the song,” Dan DeFoor said. “Carolyn (who was choir director at the time) taught the song to her chorus every year. She taught it to every single choir.”

Alumni would return annually for a choir concert at Douglas County High School said Hanson, now retired. The event grew to the point where the stage was covered with singers, Dan DeFoor said, adding that the size of the choir was a testament to Hanson’s impact on students.

Mary DeFoor said the love Hanson had for students and teachers “mentored.”

“When they came to Douglas County they were brand new bride and groom, brand new graduates from Berry College and brand new teachers,” Hanson said. “They were a very sweet young married couple and a pleasure to work with. I feel honored. I really feel honored.”

Aft said the pieces the couple produced were “everything he hoped for” for the exhibition, adding that he hopes the contest becomes an annual event in Dalton. If it takes place next year, the DeFoor’s pottery will be exhibited.  

So what is the couple planning to do with the $1,000 they weren’t expecting?

“Buy more clay,” Mary DeFoor joked.

The Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia’s mission is to promote and facilitate charitable giving among individuals and families living in northwest Georgia, secure discretionary resources to meet the current and future needs of the region, and strengthen the community by fostering collaboration and awarding grants to qualified organizations.