Tiffany Miller

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — The fine arts department at Winthrop University is a place where creativity ebbs and flows, and often the learning extends beyond the classroom when students have the opportunity to work with their professors on real-world projects.

This type of learning is exemplified by a public art project Shaun Cassidy, a professor of fine arts, is working on with his students in Charlotte.

Currently untitled, the sculpture project consists of “three large cast concrete benches and a big steel, 10-12 foot tall, sculpture that is going to be welded into a fence and painted blue,” according to Cassidy.

Cassidy, who began making art at age 14, said he draws his influences from landscapes and old sculptures (photo: Tiffany Miller).

Four students worked with Cassidy on the project over the summer and another four are expected to work on it next summer. The sculpture is expected to be installed by 2020.

“It’s a long project. Sometimes in public art, projects can take a year to four or five years,” he said. “You have to be very patient.”

Cassidy, who is from the United Kingdom, trained at the Norwich School of Art and the University of Alberta in Canada.

“Being in art school in England, the emphasis is on the student,” he said. “I tend to give my students lots of freedom…so they can find their own creative voice in that freedom. As opposed to giving them too much structure, in which they cannot play around and find what they are interested in.”

Recent Winthrop graduate Kristen Rowell said she has seen Cassidy’s passion transcend his own art and into the classroom.

“He is very intense and inspiring when it comes to making art,” Rowell said. “He will talk to students outside of class all the time about their projects, because he is always in the Rutledge building working on his own art.”

Cassidy said he draws his influences from landscapes and old sculptures.

“I’ve figured out the things that are important for me to look at,” he said. “I look at a lot of old sculpture, modernist sculpture and contemporary sculptures. I travel a lot and I get very inspired by the experiences I have while traveling.”

His passion for sculpture and creating art started at the age of 14 and by age 18, Cassidy decided he wanted to become an artist.

“I made thousands and thousands of very ugly teapots and mugs,” he said. “I was just in love with making stuff, using my hands, playing, experimenting (and) manipulating material.”

However, he said as an artist, he is always learning. “Since I’m always learning, the learning gets passed on to the students as well.”