For the Love of Art
Local Instructor Awarded Prairie Disciple Award
When someone’s interest for something begins as early as kindergarten, it’s bound to last a lifetime. Such is the case with local artist Jerry Deuschle, the recipient of the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council 2013 Prairie Disciple Award.
When he was young, Deuschle said he was frustrated by the fact art was not a required class in school. Art classes were set up during release time, so only the children who were left at school at the end of the day were able to participate. As he got older, he found that art became more of a priority to him; he remembers giving up a study hall so he was able to take art.
It was always something he loved, but it was not always something he was able to follow. He began working in art education, but the school he was at cut its art budget in half, so he was unable to stay with the position. He decided instead to follow in the footsteps of his father and become an electrician. It was while doing this job that he ran into his kindergarten teacher, who told him she remembered him, even years later, because he was such a talented artist.
While he was unable to work in the art field full-time, Deuschle did find time on the side to work on various art projects. He was able to purchase a kiln for ceramics from a school in Jasper that was closing, and he stayed involved in many art fairs, where people began to recognize his work. This helped him to build his resume, and eventually he was asked to teach a class at the Worthington campus of Minnesota West Community & Technical College.
That opportunity led to a teaching job in Canby and eventually in Jackson. He was asked to teach art with Jackson County Central Community Education but found himself short on time, so he instead did a couple of shows in the area, which helped to bring some appreciation to ceramics and the special form of it that he teaches on campus, raku.
Deuschle describes raku as being more chemistry than ceramics, and he states that “raku is nonfunctional.” It’s a form of art that requires the artist to track each of the ingredients they use as a glaze on their piece, and when it goes into the kiln to be fired, there is no way to know what it will look like when it comes out.
Deuschle says he once had a student who said he didn’t think he would like raku because he wanted to know what the end product would be, but he took the class regardless. In the end, he told Deuschle he thoroughly enjoyed it, and he has now taken several more ceramics classes.
Deuschle has done quite a bit to bring art to Jackson County, but he plans to retire before too long, so he hopes to pass the knowledge on to another artist who can continue the process. The Jackson campus of Minnesota West was recently able to purchase some new tools for ceramics, and Deuschle said his “intentions are to share the equipment with another potter.” The ceramics classes he teaches are very successful because many of the classes offered through the school are very hands-on. The pottery lab is open more hours than the class, and it is “almost a requirement to come in after hours,” he said. This allows students to really work through their projects and get to know the art for themselves.
As the newest recipient of the Prairie Disciple Award, Deuschle will be honored at a special ceremony Sept. 14 during SMAHC’s annual art celebration at Lake Shetek, which will also feature Jackson musician Jim Wuerffel.
By Laura DeKok, Jackson County Pilot staff writer