This is about the artist while she was growing up. Works shown are pre-professional.
Mathilda Ann Tanner was born April 6, 1977 in Red Bank NJ, and moved with her parents to Westboro MA in August 1977, where she attended school from nursery school through high school. She exhibited artistic talent early, winning a children’s Halloween art contest in the tri-town local weekly newspaper at age 7.
In middle school, Mathilda was named “artist of the year” in both 7th and 8th grades. She also earned summer pocket money by making paintings of people’s cottages on Martha’s Vineyard.
In high school, she was termed “the best artist I ever taught” by John B. Hayes, art teacher with (then) over 25 years of experience. She was asked by her classmates to be yearbook art director.
Like most high-school girls, Mathilda asked permission to paint her room, with surprising results:
Entered into the annual Boston Globe Scholastic Arts Contest, she won “Gold Key” awards both for an oil collage and her total portfolio submitted – and is still the only student ever to win two Gold Key awards in the same year.
Mr. Hayes risked giving Mathilda an entry form into annual Arts Worcester exhibit, in which numerous adult artists are initially not accepted through juried entry, and her ceramic sculpture “The Truth about Pottery,” was accepted into the exhibit.
While in college at UMass/Amherst, Mathilda entered a self-portrait into the Westboro Fine Arts show and won first prize.
While vacationing with her family on Martha’s Vineyard in 1994 when she was seventeen Mathilda demonstrated her artistic skill to Geoffrey Borr, potter and proprietor of Chilmark Pottery. The demonstration piece she created immediately sold for $350 and Mathilda was hired! She workd as Artist in Residence at Chilmark Pottery during her shih school, college, and teacher’s summer vacations.
Her works at the pottery have been exhibited at Shaw Cramer Gallery in Vineyard Haven.
One piece “Four Seasons”, an incised vase, was chosen as the full-page frontispiece for a feature article “Potteries of the Cape and Islands” published in Cape Cod Life magazine. It later sold for $1,400.
Her works have been entered numerous times in the annual Agricultural Fair in Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard, and have won first prize every time except once – the exception being when the judges told her that she deserved 1st prize but that “she was discouraging other artists, and anyhow, they wanted to give the prize to a 92-year-old entrant”.
In her first year at UMass/Amherst, Mathilda entered a design for T-shirts for the school’s “Sonic Sol” festival, and won:
Television producers noticed her mural at Korova Milk Bar in New York City and asked to meet her, and then enlisted her to be the feature in an episode of “Date Patrol” on The Learning Channel. Some of her paintings were shown in the episode, and she also created a work at an easel set up in Grand Central Station on the show.
Arriving in New York in August 2001, Mathilda secured commissions and some sales almost immediately, only to see some evaporate in the economic downturn following the terror attack of September 11, 2001. So, she got herself a job at the art supply house Pearl Paint, on Canal Street in New York.
But a retail job is no living, especially in New York City. Mathilda made the decision to apply to the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) program. NYCTF has over 30,000 applicants each year, but fewer than 10 percent are accepted into the program. The process is daunting – first an essay must be judged highly enough to get the applicant into a full day of interviews. Then, the applicant must be favored with all five of the interview panels. Finally, the applicants getting that far must pass two exams similar to the SAT or GMAT exams. And in Mathilda’s case, and administrator’s error assigned her to a third exam, one which was to have been taken only after a summer’s college course. But Mathilda took and passed all three exams at the same sitting.
NYCTF students must have a 4-year undergraduate degree other than a degree in education. Mathilda has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (cum laude) from U/Mass at Amherst. The students attend graduate classes for two summers and two years of nights, after which they attain a Master’s degree in Education. They are required to interview for a school job at the conclusion of their first summer session, which includes practice teaching in summer school. On her way to the job fair, administrators at Harry S Truman High School in the Bronx stopped her and said that they wanted to hire her for their school.
In her first teaching year, Mathilda taught special education 9th grade environmental science. She was tremendously successful and popular both with the school administration and with students. (Many NYCTF graduates can’t handle the real-world teaching stress and drop out.) During her first summer vacation, Mathilda was told that her assistant principal had shown the principal her Web site, and that the principal’s reaction was “why don’t we have Mathilda teaching art?”
Starting the 2005-06 school year, Mathilda taught three daytime art classes and two special education science classes, and also two elective after-school art classes. But, during mid-year, NY City cut school budgets, and that eliminated her art classes, and she was reassigned to be a resource room teacher in their place.
Also in the 2005-06 school year, she was the art director for the after-school art students’ Animé Club who created the school’s first all-student permanent mural.
She said “I love working with these talented kids, and I can’t wait until the murals are complete and I can post photos of them for the whole world to enjoy.”
In 2009 Mathilda left teaching to manage Chilmark Pottery on Martha's Vineyard.
In 2010 she moved to Black Mountain NC, near Asheville NC to start a career as an independent artist d/b/a Firefly Arts.
- 02 September 2011