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In Remembrance: Mary Ann Scherr

Mary Ann ScherrMary Ann Scherr, recognized as one of America’s most prestigious and influential designers, died at her home in Raleigh, NC on March 1st. She was 94 years old. Mary Ann was born in Akron, Ohio, and lived in Illinois, Michigan, and New York City before moving to Raleigh, NC in 1989.

Mary Ann’s voluminous resume includes seven decades of work as a designer, metalsmith, jeweler, educator and studio artist. She created book illustrations, fashion designs, costumes, graphics, product designs, and jewelry. Subsequent to WWII, she was the first woman to be hired by Ford Motor Company’s automotive division, and she designed for other corporations, including Goodyear, Alcoa, and US Steel. She owns patents for her design of body monitors, and copyrights for processes such as the instant photo etching of metals. She pioneered the use of exotic metals in adornment, stainless steel, rare earth metals, aluminum and mild steels.

Mary Ann Scherr’s jewelry, and designs in metal, can be found in the permanent collections of major museums, including The Vatican, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Art and Design in New York, Goldsmith Hall in London, The Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian, the U.S. National Archives in Washington, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Mary Ann shared ownership in Raleigh’s Roundabout Art Collective, where she exhibited her work. Her jewelry designs have been featured in North Carolina by the Gregg Museum of Art and Design, The Mahler, the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild, and the Penland School of Crafts.

A companion career as an educator began in 1950 at the Akron Art Institute. Teaching was one of the greatest joys of her life. She taught at Akron University, Kent State University, Parsons, Duke, Meredith, Penland, Haystack, Arrowmont, and the NCSU Crafts Center, and in workshops both in America and abroad. She was beloved by thousands of students worldwide who referred to her as a master teacher. She said that teaching was “a design in itself,” and students were thrilled to be involved in her unique process of creation. Mary Ann’s joyful approach to life was dynamic and inspirational, and her observation that “design is everywhere” riveted both students and friends. She lived by her motto “create something everyday.” Her longest tenure as an educator, 48 years, was at the Penland School of Crafts.

Mary Ann’s list of Boards, community service, publications and awards, is extensive. She served as a Board member for the Gregg Museum, Raleigh Fine Arts, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the Visual Arts Exchange. She also served on the Board of the Society for North American Goldsmiths and the Penland School of Crafts. She was a Fellow of the American Craft Council, and an Honorary Associate of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London. She was interviewed on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Dan Rather’s Evening News, and NBC’s That’s Incredible, and has been featured in over 25 books and magazines.

In 2014, Mary Ann was a nominee for Cooper-Hewitt’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She received many more honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of North American Goldsmiths, The College of Fellows Award from the American Craft Council, the “Lifetime Achievement” Award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, the North Carolina Medal of Arts Award, and the North Carolina Governor’s Achievement in Fine Art Award.

Mary Ann was predeceased by her husband of 54 years, Sam, and is survived by a daughter, Sydney, who lives in Malaysia, two sons, Randy, and Scott, daughter-in-law, Debora, and grandson Dylan, all from Raleigh. Hiroko Swornik and Jaclyn Davidson, from New York, lived with the Scherr family for many years. The family is deeply grateful to TEAM MARY ANN, and to all her devoted friends.

Mary Ann Scherr’s life was a model of living and loving life to the fullest. She sought to maximize the creative potential in herself and in everyone she met. Elegant, beautiful, unique, Mary Ann is deeply loved by those who walked on the path she traveled.

A private service for family will be held at the Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, 300 Saint Mary’s Street, in Raleigh.

A CELEBRATION of the life of Mary Ann Scherr for family and friends will be held at a date to be announced.

Memorial contributions may be directed to the Gregg Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC, and to the Penland School of Crafts, P O Box 37, Penland, NC, 28765, where The Mary Ann Scherr Metals Scholarship has been created in her honor to fund a student wishing to study at Penland.

Published in The News & Observer on Mar. 2, 2016