A Student's Perspective: Professor Zac Benson and the Desire to Inspire
Since starting his career at Anderson University in 2020, Zac Benson has been working hard to continue building the art program, not through numbers, but through the transformation of every student that comes into his classes. As a sculpture and ceramics professor, he works with many students who have never attempted this medium before. Encouraging them with an open heart, this professor’s eyes light up when he speaks about both art and artists alike.
Art, Life, and God
Artists pull from their life and their views to create masterpieces. As an artist, Benson believes in using his skills to create a conversation with the audience, whether through his own art or through teaching.
“I don’t just teach them about art. I teach about three things and that is art, life and God,” he said. In the classroom, God and life are not forced, but organically flow into the conversations. Benson wishes to support the person, not just the artist.
Through Anderson University’s Clay Collective—formerly known as the Clay Club—he works hard to build up the students’ skills as artists and entrepreneurs. With two fundraisers, one in the winter and one in the spring, he teaches them not only to create their masterpieces, but to sell them. Teaching them soft skills such as presentation, pricing and interacting with buyers, Benson guides students on their way to becoming successful artists.
The Artist and the Professor
As he himself is an artist, he wishes to continue building his own career so that he may grow to help his students more.
“I don’t know if you can successfully teach if you are not practicing yourself. Because then you are looking backwards,” he said. “Art is changing just like culture is changing. You need to continually make, so then you can educate your students on the forefront, not just in the past.”
Inspired by his father, his faith and contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, Benson pushes himself to speak through his art and open a dialogue for many different aspects of life. Exploring experiential art, he is currently working on a piece that asks, “What would the presence of God feel like in a physical form?” With the use of a multitude of box fans and a room, this art piece will hopefully invite the viewer into a deeper understanding or curiosity about the physical manifestation of God’s presence.
Concept to Creation
The hardest part of the artistic process, according to Benson, is to continue to make. The problem doesn’t come from motivation, but finding the time and the creative, good ideas. Half the battle in art, particularly conceptual, is the mental process.
“I tell my students, you are going to have a lot of really bad ideas,” he said. “If you look through my sketchbook, I have a lot of really bad ideas, and I’m a professional artist. I’ve been doing this for years. So, it’s navigating through those not so good ideas to get to the good idea.”
While finding inspiration is mentally challenging, it is an integral part of the artistic process. As he himself navigates through his own ideas, Benson helps his students navigate through their own.
To All the Artists
When asked for his advice to all prospective artists, Benson simply says, “Keep making.” Life keeps people busy and will deal out many different cards. To be an artist, however, a person has to keep making art. Not simple sketches, but make good creative works as often as possible.
“Create broadly too,” he said. “I would encourage my students to dabble in different mediums, but try to be successful in them, so that you are a broad minded artist and not I am a sculptor and that’s it. That’s all I do.”
He encourages all his students to explore and stretch themselves as artists. To try mediums that are different from what they are used to whether it is performance art, photography, sculpting or digital art. Each idea will create its own challenges. To be a broadminded artist is to be a strong artist.
With an open mind and an open heart, Zac Benson’s desire to inspire speaks volumes. As an artist, he speaks out to create a conversation. As a professor, he speaks out to create an artist.