Friday, September 7, 2012

UIS instructor keeps 'play' front-of-mind in classroom, while creating

The campus office of University of Illinois Springfield assistant professor of visual art Shane Harris is populated with tiny ceramic figures and abstract forms, but in one small corner of the office, a well-curated collection of M&M candy dispensers holds court. The tiny figures and abstract forms represent part of Harris’s body of work as a ceramicist, but the collection of M&M candy dispensers is a source of inspiration — the sign of a creative mind at play.

Harris, the father of a 4-year old, appreciates the role of play in creativity.

“Deep inside, I feel like I am a kid. We get in this rut in our society where we take our lives so seriously, but that does not mean we have to stop playing,” he says.

Instead, Harris suggests, adults could graduate to a kind of sophisticated play in which the playfulness and imagination of the child informs the work of the adult. Playing with his daughter reminds Harris of the pleasures of play.

“I am always surprised when I sit down to play with my daughter and time goes by so quickly,” he says. “She uses her imagination to create whole worlds to inhabit. “When I was a kid, I remember going to a playground with an old wooden structure — it could have been anything, a fort or a castle,” Harris says. “When you go to a playground as a kid, you use your imagination. It is that imagination I try to harness in my work.”

Harris was featured by Springfield's Own Magazine on September 7, 2012.

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