Monthaven Art and Cultural Center

Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center
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Dr. Priscilla Eichler addresses the crowd after receiving the MACC’s first ever Teacher of the Year Award.

Priscilla Eichler was taken completely by surprise. Seated inside Magnolia Cottage for Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center’s gala fundraiser, Eichler was shocked to learn she’d been named the MACC’s first ever Art Teacher of the Year.

“I heard someone say our new Teacher of the Year teaches students from 5 to 90, and I just wondered, who could that be?” recalls Eichler. “Then when they called out my name, I couldn’t believe my ears.”

In truth, Eichler was probably the only person attending the MACC’s Moonlight and Magnolias fundraiser on April 27 who was surprised by the announcement. That’s because Dr. Eichler, a veteran educator who holds three degrees from Vanderbilt University, is without question the MACC’s most experienced, dedicated and enthusiastic teacher.

All of those qualities played a role in her selection as Monthaven’s inaugural Teacher of the Year, says MACC Deputy Director Tonya Mirtes.

“Priscilla is quite frankly the most versatile art teacher I’ve ever met,” Mirtes says. “Her ability to transition from teaching 5-years olds to teens to seniors, all in a day, if need be, is simply amazing. But she is also deeply committed to engaging with the broader community, working, for instance, twice a month with our military veterans. Without a doubt, she really deserves the title Teacher of the Year.”

Deputy Director Tonya Mirtes, sculptor Valentine Adams, Executive Director Cheryl Strichik and Dr. Eichler at Moonlight and Magnolias.

In a sense, Eichler was born to be an artist. Her remarkable teaching skills, on the other hand, were honed over a lifetime of study and hard work.

Born in East Nashville, she began drawing around age 4. She already knew while at Isaac Litton High School that she wanted to be an art major in college. But she wasn’t sure she was qualified.

“I painted at home all the time, but I didn’t have any formal training in art,” remembers Eichler.

So, when she went to interview with an art professor at Vanderbilt University, she was extremely nervous. “I showed the professor my work but then confessed that I had no training,” says Eichler. “The professor said, ‘that’s good, since I won’t have to re-teach you everything.’”

Eichler graduated from Vanderbilt with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, having double-majored in art and English. She taught briefly in Metro Schools.

Around this time, Eichler’s future husband, a pianist and music educator named Renald Eichler, had started his own school. Called the Education Development Center, the school specialized in teaching children with special needs.

“Renald would start every faculty meeting with the question, ‘what have you done today to make a child’s life better?’” Eichler says. “You wouldn’t hear many teachers complaining after that question.”

These teachers, of course, were accustomed to working in the trenches, so they didn’t indulge in a lot of complaining. Nevertheless, the specialized needs of the students did prompt Eichler to continue her training, earning a master’s degree in special education.

A force of nature, Renald went on to found a psychiatric hospital called Cumberland Hills, which provided addiction treatment for adults and various services to special needs children. The demands of this facility prompted both Renald and Priscilla to pursue doctorates, which they received from Vanderbilt University. After nine years, the facility was sold to another hospital association. Eichler and her husband closed Education Development Center in the mid-1990s, and they eventually moved to Hendersonville.

Years later, Eichler heard from her sisters about a place in Hendersonville called Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center. She stopped by one day to see if the MACC would be interested in her paintings. Executive Director Cheryl Strichik was interested, but also wanted to know if Eichler had any teaching experience. The rest, as they say, is history.

MACC Teacher of the Year Award by Valentine Adams.

These days, you can find Eichler teaching acrylic painting to seniors, and mixed media to children in the MACC’s Arts After School program. This summer, she’ll teach an ARTopia class at the MACC’s popular Summer Art Camp.

Eichler’s lesson plans are always engaging and fun. During a recent Art After School mixed media class, the children created butterflies, using coffee filters for wings and clothespins for bodies.

Appropriately enough, Eichler’s Teacher of the Year Award was created in the form of a butterfly. This award, by the way, didn’t come from a trophy shop. Rather, it was handmade by Nashville-based metal sculptor (and MACC healing arts facilitator) Valentine Adams. The award now resides in an honored space on Eichler’s home mantel, resting comfortably next to the family’s Beethoven action figure.

“The award is so heavy I actually can’t even lift it,” exclaims Eichler. “But that’s OK, because that award isn’t going anywhere. It’s staying with me forever.”

Kaylin Warden

External Affairs Coordinator

Kaylin Warden joined the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center staff in 2024 as External Affairs Coordinator. In this post, she organizes special off-site events and manages the organization’s external communications. She also works with the development department by updating the MACC’s customer relations database, and she assists the executive director in setting up exhibitions. Above all else, Kaylin is passionate about the arts. It comes as no surprise, then, that she is now pursuing a master’s degree in art history. When she’s not at the MACC, you can find her reading her favorite books (especially ones dealing with maritime mysteries), cooking, gardening, playing with her cat and two dogs, and cheering for the Nashville Predators.

Ruth Chase

Regional Arts Director
Ruth Chase is the Regional Arts Director of Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center, joining the team in 2023. For Ruth, the job is all about community, bringing people together to uplift and educate artists and art lovers alike. Her role at Monthaven is to strengthen the local artist community and build connections that will enrich Hendersonville and our surrounding communities through art exhibitions, art education, and opportunities for regional artists.
Prior to joining Monthaven, Ruth worked in the arts for over 30 years and is a multimedia artist and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute. Her artistic practice is inquiry-based and engages in community bridge-building. She was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles, curated and juried exhibitions, and has taught at the Crocker Art Museum.
Ruth was awarded an Artist-in-Residence for Artist Activating Communities through a grant from the California Arts Council for three consecutive years. Her film Belonging screened at both the 18th Annual Nevada City Film Festival and Wild & Scenic Film Festival. She has received the Legendary Female Artist of Venice award, and she has exhibited in The Crocker Kingsley, the Museum of Northern California Art, and the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute. Ruth also continues her work as a Curatorial Consultant and Art director for the Californian Indigenous Research Project, where she has worked with the local tribe since 2018.