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South Carolina Art Education Association Thomas A. Hatfield Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

January 12, 2023 | Features

The South Carolina Arts Education Association has announced the 2022 Award Recipients.

2022 Thomas A. Hatfield Lifetime Achievement Award

The South Carolina Art Education Association (SCAEA) Thomas A. Hatfield Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an active member of SCAEA that demonstrates a life-long commitment to the teaching and advocating of art education.

The 2022 recipients of the SCAEA Thomas A. Hatfield Lifetime Achievement Award are Upstate, SC educators, Cindy Riddle and Dr. Mary Lou Hightower! 


Mrs. Riddle is the Assistant Superintendent of Visual and Performing Arts for Spartanburg School District One. Mrs. Riddle’s leadership within Spartanburg One has resulted in the development of quality arts programs throughout the district. Mrs. Riddle has developed and refined a unique mentor support program to address the specific needs of visual art instructors within her district. From the funding of Arts In Basic Curriculum school sites, to Distinguished Arts Programming sites, she has been able to garner the support of schools, district administrators and the school board of trustees in support of quality arts education. Mrs. Riddle leverages her experience with reflective practice to improve student growth and empower educators. As SCAEA President-Elect and President, Cindy served on the NAEA Delegates Assembly in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. As SCAEA President (2020-2022) she successfully led the association through Covid and hosted the SCAEA State Conference virtually in 2020 and the SCAEA State Conference in person in 2021. As a reflection of the core values of SCAEA under the National Art Education Association (NAEA), she created a new board position for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Additionally, Mrs. Riddle has been an instrumental force with the STEAM initiative in SC, serving on the first state committee that wrote the STEAM Continuum in 2014. She has presented locally, statewide, and nationally on STEAM and is an adjunct professor at USC Upstate, teaching summer Muse Machine STEAM and Design Thinking Institutes. Over her 23 year career, she has received numerous teaching recognitions and professional awards for travel and study abroad. In 2015 Mrs. Riddle was named South Carolina Art Education Administrator of the Year, and in 2017 she received the Dr. Deborah Smith Hoffman Mentor Award. She was the 2020 recipient of the prestigious Governor’s Awards for the Arts, in Arts Education. The SC Arts Commission annually presents six Governor’s Awards, the highest honor the state gives in the arts, to recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to arts in South Carolina. In addition to being an active warrior for arts education, she is a practicing visual artist and owner of Chicken Coop Art Co.


Dr. Hightower is also a local artist with studio space at the Mayfair Art Studios, who works with watercolor media, incorporating textural materials, to create what she calls “watercolor patchwork,” the process she uses to unite watercolor media with the art of quilting. The idea of watercolor patchwork grew out of her interest in folk arts and more particularly the quilting process.

Dr. Hightower recently retired as an Associate Professor of Art at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She developed an appreciation for quilting early in life. That interest was sparked by her grandmother, Emma Swartz, who was an avid quilter.

Dr. Hightower served for 30 years as a visual arts teacher and District Art Coordinator for Spartanburg School District 6 before joining the USC Upstate faculty over 15 years ago. Her teaching career covered everything from Art Education Methods Classes, Southern Folk Art History, Crafts of Diverse Cultures and Advanced Placement for Studio Art Teacher Training Institute. She also served as an elected official to the Spartanburg School District Six School Board where she constantly promotes the arts as an integral part of the school curriculum. In addition, she has been a critical supporter of leading the Chapman Cultural Center's STEAM Teachers Institute which provides state-wide training to educators on arts-integration strategies to implement in their classrooms.

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