Virginia Derryberry, UNC Asheville professor emerita of art, has been named the winner of the 2017 College Arts Association (CAA) Distinguished Teaching of Art Award. She will receive the honor at the CAA national conference in New York on Feb. 15. This award has been won by many distinguished artists, including Josef Albers, Philip Guston, Wayne Thiebaud and Grace Hartigan.
Derryberry has received many prior awards and honors for her art as well as her teaching. She was chosen by the American Academy in Rome to be a visiting artist in 2016 and also in 2010. Here in the U.S., she received the Southeastern College Art Association 2013 Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement and also won the same organization’s 2006 Individual Artist Fellowship.
Derryberry, who joined UNC Asheville’s faculty in 1996, won the university’s Distinguished Teacher in the Humanities Award in 2001, the Scholarly Achievement Award in 2004, and the Distinguished Teacher of the Year in 2005 and the Feldman Professor Award for Creative Activity/Research in 2012. She served as art department chair from 2009-2014. Associate Professor Leisa Rundquist, who assumed the role of department chair upon Derryberry’s retirement, says “Virginia’s impact remains palpable. Soon after her arrival, she developed painting courses that focused on concept as well as technique and at the end of her time here, she worked tirelessly to help develop the new baccalaureate Art History Program.”
Looking back, it is her relationships with the students that stays with Derryberry. “I have loved mentoring these students and enabling them to go onward and upward,” she says. “Not only have they been eager to learn and to go forward in life, they have been able to experience the challenge of independent thinking, many of them through the Undergraduate Research Program. To my mind, that is what distinguishes UNC Asheville.”
Many of Derryberry’s students became subjects of her paintings, and many wrote to recommend her for the CAA award, including Kelly Olshan (BFA 2015), now in the MA program in arts administration at Columbia University and Louise Thompson (BFA 2015), now in the MFA program at Syracuse University. Both are featured in the Derryberry’s series of five oil paintings, Sol and Luna Have a Conversation. Among the other students who wrote to recommend her were Larkin Ford (BFA 2008), an MFA candidate at Georgia State University, and John Rudel (BFA 1999), associate professor of art at Virginia Wesleyan College, whose work is shown widely.