By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor (Courtesy Photo/The Bison)
Retired OBU faculty member Dr. Tony Litherland will host his second pottery work-shop Saturday, March 17 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Arts @ 317, a local art gallery on Main St. Shawnee.
Litherland served as professor of political science at OBU for 25 years before his retirement in 2016. However, pottery making, although it was not his area of focus as a professor, is clearly something for which he has a great passion.
“I like to throw large compound pieces. I also like to build ships, abstract pieces and baskets,” he said.
OBU assistant professor of art, Julie Blackstone, encouraged Litherland’s artistic endeavors.
“I thank Julie Blackstone for challenging me to take some of my doodles and carve them on clay,” Litherland said. “I was hooked and still try to carve designs into the pieces I make.”
Having spent more than 20 years teaching at the collegiate level, sharing his love of pottery through teaching was natural to him.
“I love to teach any topic at any time,” Litherland said. “There are three levels of teaching: first to teach the love of a subject, second to teach skill, and third to teach expertise. I love to see people discover the joy of clay.”
At Litherland’s workshops, students learn several pottery techniques.
“Tony [Litherland] brings the pottery wheel and shows each person individually how to work clay on the pottery wheel,” co-owner of the Arts @ 317 Mary Ruth Hatley said. “And then that’s usually about twenty minutes of the class, and then the rest of the time, while somebody else is working on the wheel, he has the rest of us work on slab techniques with the clay.”
The workshop attendees get the opportunity to explore pottery without external pressures.
“It’s a wonderful experience for somebody who has never worked with clay before or played with mud, as one of my friends likes to call it, because there’s no expectations,” Hat-ley said. “There’s no expectation that you know what you’re doing; there’s no expectation that you’re going to produce a product. It’s just a chance to experiment with it and try it.”
The Arts @ 317 has formed a welcoming environment for Litherland’s workshops that allows him to grow as a pottery teacher and artist.
“317 is an amazing art-nurturing venue,” Litherland said. “They coach me in many aspects of the business perspective of selling art and encourage me in the creative side as well.”
As for the Arts @ 317, Litherland’s workshops have been welcomed with open arms.
“The workshops grew out of his doing a demonstration for us at a block party two months ago and we had such a positive response,” Hatley said. “At that demonstration, a couple of people got to participate in it, and we had people going, ‘I wanna do that; I want to try that.’ And so Tony [Lith-erland] said, ‘well then let’s just try that.’”
The Downtown Block Party that Litherland demonstrated at is a recurring event held on the third Friday of every month. Several local businesses stay open late and feature live music or other art demonstrations for the event.
The Arts @ 317’s Hatley was one of the individuals who helped develop Downtown Block Party.
“We started participating in it a long time ago, before we had a gallery, in fact,” she said. “Vernon Hatley, who is the other co-owner, has been doing photography forever and he was doing the festival thing, and Ada Hunter, at Sweet Earth, and Ed Bolt, with his own gallery, came up with the idea that we would do something like [the Paseo District’s] Art Walk.”
The event provides the Shawnee arts community a way to share their work with each and with the larger community, and it raises awareness of local artwork.
“The idea was to give people an opportunity to visit the galleries, to hear local musicians, to see local artists, to meet with the artists,” Mary Ruth Hatley said. “And just to have an activity up and down Main Street that was emphasizing all the talent across all the arts that are available here in this area. So that’s kind of how that started.”
This month’s Downtown Block Party will be Friday, March 16, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. and more information will become available on Downtown Block Party Shawnee Ok and the Art’s @ 317’s Facebook pages.
Litherland is only one example of several members of the OBU community who are participating in the block party events.
OBU student violinists have performed at previous Block Parties and OBU faculty have displayed their artwork as part of the event.
Litherland’s second pottery workshop, developed as a result of his participation in the January block party, will be the Saturday after the upcoming block party.
Spots for the workshop can be reserved by visiting the Arts at @ 317 gallery on Main Street. The cost for attending the workshop is $35.