Haruo Shiga, sculptor, gave his students carte blanche in the studio

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HOLDEN – The literal writing on the wall of Haruo Shiga’s longtime studio tells the story of an imaginative guru who touched the lives of the many children who have spent time there over the years, creating their own chefs- work alongside the renowned artist.

Shiga, who immigrated from Japan to the United States in 1976, has made a name for himself as a contemporary American sculptor over the past four decades. He said his work is “different from traditional, not statues or molding or sculpting objects”. Instead, he focused on installations and environmental and performance art.

“I like to create something three-dimensional that doesn’t fall into any category,” Shiga said. “The mission is looking for a sculpture that does not belong to any pre-existing category. If I make a chair, I make a funny chair.

He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver, followed by a master’s degree in fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. When Shiga was hired to work at the Boston Children’s Museum for a year, it sparked his love for working with young people.

“It woke me up,” he said. “I have visited all the other children’s museums – nothing compares to Boston.”

Shiga moved to Holden in 1984 and turned his garage into a studio that has collected thousands of signatures, doodles, words, sayings and more on its walls, doors and even the ceiling over the years. . These writings tell a story, and it’s hard to understand the impact he had on the thousands of esteemed children who walked through his studio threshold. One of those young people was Jenna Bailey, a Holden resident who grew up to be an artist just like her mentor.

Jenna Bailey, left, with Haruo Shiga.  Bailey, a former student of the sculptor, is herself an art teacher.

“As a teacher myself, I don’t have this physical representation of how many people have passed by,” Bailey said of the names on the walls of Shiga’s studio, including his own and his. girl. “The number of lives he has touched is incredible.”

Shiga started a business, Moreart, in the 1990s and began organizing art exhibitions and teaching free art classes at schools in the area.

“Public school systems were cutting art and specials,” he said, adding that he offered art classes in his studio for $ 5 per student, which included all necessary supplies. “What I did with my students was completely different from what schools did. I liked to think outside the box; I was called a troublemaker.

A small sample of the student artwork on the walls of Shiga's studio.

Bailey began taking art lessons with Shiga when she was a young girl.

“My friend brought me. She knew how much I loved art, ”she recalls. “Many of us started to come and he made us feel very welcome. Everything you have done has been successful.

She said Shiga’s positive influence on her extended beyond the studio.

“He saved me when I was a kid,” said Bailey, who now has his own art studio and school, The Burlap Bee, and recently got a new job teaching in public schools. ‘Auburn. “He was my refuge, every year for eight years, and he picked me up on a Saturday and brought me to the Worcester Art Museum.”

Shiga said he would give his students free rein, letting them find their own creative path that he simply helped foster.

“They would start doing their own thing,” he said. “I made these kids my helpers and Jenna was the leader of the group. I would say, ‘Go ask Jenna.’ “

A young Jenna Bailey works in Shiga's studio.

He said Bailey stood out.

“You should have seen his photos,” said Shiga.

Admiration is mutual.

“He challenged us and took us off the beaten track,” Bailey said. “I think you can learn so much from people. He made me feel accepted and taught me “What do I have to do with this to get to the end result?” How you can trust the process.

While a student at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, Bailey had the opportunity to study at the Louvre in Paris and with local artists in their studios, bringing her passion for art that was ignited. under the tutelage of Shiga.

“If you’re able to spread that joy, that’s the essence of art,” she said.

Shiga and his wife, whose nickname is YoYo, moved to Seattle earlier this summer to be near his grandchildren.

“I fell in love with her on sight,” Shiga said of his beloved wife. “Everything I did was impossible without YoYo always supporting me no matter what. It was an easy thing to do knowing that I always have his support.

It was a bittersweet decision to leave her studio, but her artistic legacy in the community remains. He plans to continue creating and teaching art, and has said he hopes to get in touch with a Japanese woman in Seattle who is doing origami demonstrations for the community, with whom he has a lot of experience.

“I want everything to be more fun, to make stories out of it,” Shiga said. “When I think something is finished, that’s when the art begins. “


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