Hitchcock Academy gears up for spring classes

BRIMFIELD — Hitchcock Academy has been blessed with excellent teachers through the years. For the past ten years Hitchcock has been fortunate to have Marcia Beal. Think of her as the woman who can get you to look at the artistic potential of dryer lint.

Marcia Beal teaches a number of art classes at Hitchcock Academy. Among them are several felting sessions that have included creating birds, Christmas ornaments, and most recently, pictures in her new Painting with Wool class. Wool is a favorite material here, but dryer lint with its potential for interesting color combinations, can also be integrated into a project. Beal can, and does, go beyond the medium of felt too. This spring she brings classes in Silk Scarf Painting and the Ukrainian art of egg decorating known as Pysanky.

She is also, rumor has it, a skilled rug hooker and she has dabbled in weaving and spinning. That is if “dabble” means: to become proficient at.

Marcia Beal did not intend to teach art. Her major in college was education. Yet, she has never worked for a school, per se, she says. She began her journey as Hitchcock Academy’s multi medium art teacher at Higgins Armory Museum, which was, at one time, the repository of the second largest armor collection in the United States. (The Higgins collection has now been integrated into the Worcester Art Museum.) During her tenure at Higgins she says she often found herself loading up her car with armor and travelling to local schools for demonstrations. Thus, came her classroom experience. It was also while she was at Higgins that Beal began taking art classes at the nearby Worcester Art Museum.

From Higgins, Beal moved to work at Old Sturbridge Village, where she met Hitchcock Academy’s Director Sue Gregory, who also worked at OSV at the time. At Sturbridge, Beal says, she developed a further interest in textiles that had been initially piqued when she’d learned rug hooking years before. It was at Sturbridge she explored weaving and spinning and working with wool, which has chameleonic properties. For an upcoming Paint with Wool class Beal says she is, “hustling up some wool,” which, while the class is needle felting she will use to explain and demonstrate a simple dying technique using Kool-Aid ®.


Heating and applying wax creates a unique symbolic design using Pysanky style egg decoration.

While wool lends itself to all types of projects, Beal says her favorite class to teach is Pysanky. She says she was exposed to the art through a Ukrainian neighbor, whom she describes as, “very motherly.” This woman’s children were  grown and so she often invited Beal and her brother to sample her excellent cooking. It was through these visits that Beal learned the art of Pysanky. Her method is strictly traditional. She does not use a hollow egg but rather the unemptied, whole egg, which signifies purity. 

Beal says often her classes include grandmothers, daughters and grandchildren. She says the multigenerational interplay, “makes this a true cultural experience. So I’m not just teaching a class.” Beal says this recounting of her older students’ experience of this traditional craft with the younger generation is what she, “really enjoys most.”

For the past 17 years Beal and her husband have made their home in Holland. She says this is “the first house,” they have owned, having been renters prior to this. Including renters of a stone house, on a pond, which they moved into when she decided she wanted to, “raise ducks.” The stone house, the pond and the ducks are gone, but Marcia Beal is here at Hitchcock Academy inspiring her students to reach their potential. Who knows what can be accomplished when one works with a woman who can transform dryer lint? 

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