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PCC art instructor and world exhibitor Ben Buswell awarded Hallie Ford Fellow
Story by Janis Nichols. Photos by Vern Uyetake.
For Portland Community College sculpture instructor Ben Buswell, the conscious process of prying away the outside influences in order to find his own path has resulted in success. Last month, Buswell was named one of five Hallie Ford 2015 Fellows in the Visual Arts. The Ford Family Foundation awards this $25,000 unrestricted prize to “those who have demonstrated a depth of sophisticated practice and potential for significant future accomplishments.”
“There are many people involved in my success,” said Buswell. “References from my peers and colleagues play a major role in the selection process. And as importantly, there are the people who have encouraged me and provided opportunities to grow my work over the years.”
Buswell said his process of separation, of moving away from the influence of others and finding his own path, his own place with his work has taken 10 years. The Fellows selection committee needs to see how the applicant’s work has changed over time. For Buswell, the separation process was evident in the work he submitted.
He added, “You can teach people how to make art, but eventually you hope the student reaches the point where he or she ignores the lessons and follows their own internal compass. For me, the process of education is to help people realize that they are their own best question. With time, the work, the question, becomes an unconscious engagement.”
He has been teaching sculpture at the Rock Creek Campus since 2007 and he is the first to say that teaching the basics is difficult.
“You always want to avoid the master/apprentice relationship,” he added. “The challenge is how to teach without codifying the skills. Students arrive with the expectation that there is only one right answer. There are rules to follow, but there are many answers.”
Buswell, a native of Dallas (Oregon), was raised by two school teachers who taught him the value of dialogue, of the joy of thinking things out.
“Teaching gives you the opportunity to do that,” he said. “It can be frustrating, but teaching renews itself. A teacher can create a collaborative environment which includes attentiveness and problem solving.”
The diversity of the Rock Creek Campus is part of the environment Buswell finds attractive.
“In one class you are apt to welcome a high school student alongside an 80-year-old retiree,” he said. “They are able to work together and provide a richer environment for each other. They challenge each other’s expectations. When your expectations are challenged it can be frustrating, but I start each class telling students that if they put in the work, they will discover things.”
Buswell has exhibited in four solo shows in the last four years and his work has been shown in the Portland Art Museum and in group exhibitions in California, Washington, New York, Wisconsin, Brazil and London. His sculptures are also included in several private and public collections.
The Hallie Ford Fellowship includes time at the Caldera artist-in-residence center near Sisters and future support with exhibits and travel.