No crack pots in fiery SWC ceramics program

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FEAT OF CLAY– Ceramics master John Lewis has inspired students to think beyond pots and plates to make ceramics an elite art form.
Photo by David McVicker/Staff

John Lewis doesn’t want to hear any more whining about “starving artists.” Like so many hip 21st century men and women, Lewis understands that art and creativity is our future.

Southwestern College’s gifted professor of ceramics said the arts provide a pathway for the development of intelligence and problem solving like no other subjects. He had his own epiphany at his Wisconsin community college.

“When I started talking to my professors, I realized how many jobs related to arts existed such as working in a museum or designing clothes,” he said.

That is when he said he decided he would make art his number one priority. Lewis said he enjoyed using ceramic materials more than other media and was spellbound by the process. Southwestern College had the foundation in place for a great ceramics program, he said.

He decided he would pursue an education degree to work as an art teacher. He quickly found out, however, that he did not like teaching young children as much as he thought he would. College students, he concluded, are where it’s at, and SWC is the place to teach them.

“We have a nice set of art courses that are offered for students who are art majors and those who are not is extreme beneficially to the community,” he said.

Lewis earned an MFA from the University of North Texas and was hired at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in New Castle, Maine.

“I would drive and deliver the supplies to the school, load the work up and get it fired,” he said.  Then received an offer to manage ceramics facilities at 500x Gallery in Dallas. He worked as the ceramic technician and an adjunct instructor. Lewis said he was content working in Dallas, but wanted to run a program he could shape. He was hired as a tenure track assistant professor by SWC in 2008.

George Essex, who has serve as an instructional lab technician in the ceramics studio since 1995, said Lewis has pulled SWC into the 21st century.

“When John Lewis came to SWC five years ago he brought a new attitude and has since created a more progressive ceramics program,” he said.

Lewis is also co-director of the campus art galley and advisor of the popular Clay Club. He recently took the Clay Club to the Robert and Frances Museum of Art at CSU San Bernardino.

Goyo Flores, a retired theater instructor, is a Lewis fan.

“John Lewis promotes student art work not only on campus, but also at the Third Avenue Gallery,” said Flores.“ Our work just gets better with him. He relates well with students of all ages.”

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