Terry Slade, a MCC alum, stands next to "Mantra for the Survival of the Earth," which is currently on display at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, N.Y. The fused glass circles are arranged in a sphere to resemble the shape of the Earth. The gentle random movement, in addition to the use of light and color, is intended to create a meditative atmosphere.
Growing up in rural, southwest Nebraska, Terry Slade never imagined that one day he would create art that would take him around the world.
In fact, most of the opportunities that led to his success weren't the result of his planning at all, but rather of happenstance. He simply had the wisdom to take advantage of them.
"I always had an interest in art," said Slade. "When I was a kid and people asked what I wanted to be, I said I wanted to be an artist. My family was constantly making things, whether crafting, leather tooling, etc., but I never had any drawing classes or anything like that."
Slade's family lived in Imperial until he was in the second grade. At that point, they moved to Palisade and stayed there until relocating to Benkelman his senior year of high school in 1968.
After graduation, Slade followed his sister to Cheyenne, Wyo. to look for work. It was there that he took his first art class, painting, an independent study offered through the University of Wyoming.
Sculptures are just
one of many forms of art Terry Slade has been inspired to make after conducting
historical research in places such as the British Isles and France. Pictured is
his piece, “Super Germ,” in downtown Albany, N.Y.
Slade found learning to be addictive and enrolled full-time at McCook Community College in the fall of 1969.
"I was the first in my immediate family to go to college," said Slade. "MCC was perfect because it was close to home. I really wanted the experience. I'm not quite sure why, but it was something in me that had to be done."
He took general education courses and studied psychology and sociology at MCC, which provided the initial influence for the art he would eventually create. He also took a public speaking class, which came in handy later in life when he became a college art professor.
"Looking back, I realize how important going to MCC was," said Slade. "I couldn't have gone to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln at 18. I was too intimidated, too uninformed. I hadn't lived. I think community colleges are such a great transition for young people finding their way after high school. It gives them security before jumping into a four-year college or university system."
Slade faced the draft after graduating from MCC in 1971. He decided to go into the Air Force on his own and ended up stationed in Los Angeles.
"I started taking painting classes at night while I was out there – just to learn to paint and about color," Slade said. "It was a very psychedelic era, and it taught me to think about abstraction."
After his commitment with the military was up, Slade moved to Lincoln, G.I. Bill in hand, to resume his postsecondary education.
"When I went to UNL in 1975, I went undeclared, but thinking I would take electronic classes and a couple of art classes," Slade said. "In the military, I had gone to a high-end tech school for electronics, so I just figured I would continue with that."
Instead, he left the registration office with all art classes because the electronic classes were full. He took 2-D Design, Drawing and Sculpture, then started working with metal.
"I was 25 at that time and really got into it," said Slade. "I was hungry for it. I made my first sculpture, and my instructor sat me down and asked if that's what I wanted to do with my life. I decided right then that I did, and he told me what I had to do to get there."
One of the many requirements for a bachelor's degree in fine art was to take a minimum of five art history courses.
"That was the eye-opener," said Slade. "Art history justifies what you are as an artist because there are thousands of years of history that make what an artist does important to society."
Slade graduated from UNL in 1978 and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1980.
"I really started to become an artist at that point," said Slade. "I had a professor in grad school who was a painter, and he said every day you keep away from your art it takes two to catch up."
Terry Slade often uses
blown or cast glass in his work. Pictured is “Sunspots at Sea,” commissioned in
2009 for the Pulmatier Cruise Line based out of Barcelona, Spain.
Slade took the philosophy to heart. Almost every day since then, for the past 35 years, he has made something related to his art.
Slade landed his first teaching job at Florida State University in 1981, which was followed by a job as an art professor and sculptor in residence at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. in 1983.
In 1995, he was promoted to a full professor of art. He served as chair of the Department of Art and Art History from 2007 until his retirement earlier this month.
Slade's primary focus over the years has been exploring the relationship between humans and the natural world. For more than two decades, he has researched and documented ancient monuments, stone circles, burial chambers, etc., throughout the British Isles and France.
"History gives us a grounding – a connection to our past," said Slade. "People have always had the need to build things and to make things of beauty. Essentially, humans have been pretty much the same as we are now for many thousands of years. I find that thrilling and somewhat comforting."
His research trips have inspired him to create numerous drawings, bronze sculptures and installations in wood and mixed media. He often uses objects from nature such as sticks, branches and seedpods while occasionally incorporating blown or cast glass to produce a variety of both decorative and functional objects.
Slade's work has been viewed in more than 100 solo exhibitions throughout the U.S., Great Britain, Italy and France and has been featured in shows in Japan and Spain.
His most recent work, "Dreams and Apparitions," is currently on exhibition at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, N.Y. where it will remain through Oct. 3.
The exhibition features a newly commissioned piece, "Mantra for the Survival of the Earth," a 14-foot in diameter spherical shape comprised of 365 fused glass discs, intended to evoke contemplation of humans' place in the universe and to encourage awareness of the beauty, fragility and amazement of human circumstances.
McCook Community College is featuring Slade in honor of the fact that August is American Artist Appreciation Month.
More information about the MWP exhibition can be found at http://www.mwpai.org/view/exhibitions/current/terry-slade-dreams-and-apparitions/. Additional photos of Slade's art can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tsladeart/albums.