CHADRON – When Omaha potter Wes Galusha came to Chadron State College last October as an artist-in-residence, the students and faculty in Memorial Hall were in for a treat.
Assistant Professor of Art Trudy Denham said Galusha demonstrated throwing clay on the wheel, trimming, and alteration of three-dimensional forms with hand-building techniques. Galusha said he and the Art faculty agreed that the show combined with his residency was a winning combination.
“Wes was very engaged with the students. He worked with them one-on-one, as well as groups. He seemed to be very perceptive to their needs and demonstrated multiple possible techniques in each of his demonstrations. Beyond the creation of art, Wes discussed consumerism in art and the business of being an artist,” Denham said.
Galusha set up an exhibit of about 11 pieces in Memorial Hall’s Main Gallery from Oct. 7 through Nov. 11. For three days, he worked with students in five courses: Drawing for the Non-Major (ART 120), Elements of Art (ART 239), Ceramics for the Non-Major (ART 200), Ceramics 1 (ART 228), and Ceramics 2 (ART 428).
Galusha said he appreciated that the faculty were welcoming and allowed the experience to be organic in response to students’ interactions.
“My life’s work has been in education and pottery, and being able to meld these together in helping students expand their horizons is rewarding. I especially appreciated the opportunity to talk in the gallery to the amassed students regarding my work,” Galusha said. “It is truly inspiring to find such a vibrant and active art department at a state college. This makes for a well-rounded, truly educated, future generation. The students were engaged and active in their participation, willingness to observe, and ask questions for higher level understanding, the new ideas, techniques, and aesthetics an outsider brings.”
Galusha said the experience was one of the best he has had since leaving his teaching post in academia to pursue pottery as an independent and solo ceramic artist.
“The enthusiasm of students working independently in a lab situation was a testament to the relationships that exist between the students and faculty. Each student conveyed the respect teachers had for students and the reciprocity by students for faculty. This respect went further and was demonstrated for support staff, as well. It is obvious that the culture prevalent at the college is for hard work, respect, honor, appreciation, personal responsibility, collegiality, involvement and maintaining good working relationships,” Galusha said.
Galusha said he shared two important and useful pieces of information with students. The first relates to thinking outside the box.
“‘Surprise me’ is when a student gives original thought to an assignment, question, or piece of art that no one else is willing to explore. They come up with a unique approach to problem solving. This advice transcends just the art class, and is necessary for success in life,” Galusha said.
The second concept is for students to take classes that expand a knowledge base outside their comfort zones.
Baillie Ciferri of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said Galusha’s guest demo was the best she has seen during her time at CSC.
“The most important take aways for me were following dreams and working hard for what you want. I think Wes Galusha was a great example of if you work hard and are truly passionate about something you should go for it. He showed us that being an artist can be challenging at times, but that makes all the hard work worth it,” Ciferri said.
Daria Dart of Hastings, Nebraska, an art education major, said she is also excited to try the techniques Galusha demonstrated and one day share them with her students.
“I think it was really good of Wes Galusha to let us know it's a challenge, but it isn't impossible to start a career as an artist. I also took away some great pointers on techniques. I enjoyed how he talked about the project as he was demonstrating and allowed questions at different points,” Dart said.
Galusha said he was impressed with the Art department. He said having the Music and Theater departments in the same building helps facilitate interaction among students who place an emphasis on the arts.
“I had quite a few pleasant surprises while in Chadron. The campus is beautiful and expansive with hiking trails, state of the art facilities, clean grounds and buildings and an integrated body of students representing so many cultures and countries,” Galusha said.
Galusha had briefly visited Chadron several times before the residency, and as a participant in Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska he camped on campus in June 2019. He said he would like to return to CSC in a few years to see if his visit made an impact.
Galusha donated one of his pottery pieces to the college. Denham said it will be a good addition to the college’s collection for visitors as well as a significant teaching tool for student artists.
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