By Joel Longnecker
Once a year, Whatcom Community College presents one full- time and one adjunct faculty members with the Puget Sound Energy award for Faculty Excellence. The awards process is handled by a Professional Advisory Committee, which is comprised of faculty members who serve several yearlong terms on the committee. The process of nominating individuals is initiated every year in the beginning of May. Emails with nomination information are sent to faculty members and advertising such as posters are provided by the Professional advisory committee. This year, local artist and business owner, Ené Lewis was the adjunct winner.
Ené Lewis was born and raised in the Bronx of New York City. She first went to school at Alfred University, The New York State College of Ceramics. She was met with two major pieces of her life there, a love for art, and her husband Eugene.
“I went to Alfred as an undergraduate with no plans for an art degree” Lewis said.
After attending Alfred’s she went on to receive her Masters from New York University in 1963. While attending NYU she worked at several different public schools teaching art. This was also the same year her and husband Eugen tied the knot.
“I taught art in five different public schools while finishing NYU” Lewis said “I decided I would rather just make art”
After graduation, she and her husband moved to Brooklyn where they opened their first art studio called The Clay Pot. After years of owning studios in New York the couple moved across the country to Bellingham in 1980. They continued to pursue art as their means of living by opening Indian Street Pottery the year after
“We raised our family by making and selling artwork” Said Lewis. “We used to ship the things back to the east coast to sell them there”
In 1997, Lewis joined the Whatcom Community College faculty when asked by her friend and former WCC teacher, Kathryn Roe, if she would be interested to try it out.
“I thought it would be fun for one quarter” said Lewis, “Then they asked if I would do it again. And on and on it went.”
Now as a long term faculty member she teaches some drawing and design classes, such as Drawing One, but invests most of her time in teaching her passion, ceramics. She reaches students of all skill levels as she instructs, Ceramics One, Two, and Three courses.
Student, Elliott Cribbs, worked with Lewis for about one year as a work study, spending most of their time in Roe studio, the campus’ on site ceramics workshop. It was Cribbs who put in the application for Lewis to receive the Faculty Excellence award.
“It has been a joy seeing her demonstrate ceramics techniques for the students. She encourages creativity and innovation in the projects they are constructing without being overbearing on the direction of the piece!” Cribbs said.
Lewis sells her work at local shows and has ceramic creations displayed not only at Indian Street Pottery but also at locations around town. She and her husband’s creations have been shown at locations such as Good Earth Pottery, Mindport Gallery and, Luica Douglas Gallery. She and her husband were even recognized for their work when they received the Mayor’s Art Award in 2010.
“Sometimes nowadays we are at the studio” Lewis said “but when we were making our living with it we were there every free minute”
Outside of her teaching and working at Indian Street Pottery, she spends much time pursuing her personal interests such as Gardening in the spring and summer with her husband.
“We Garden so much in the summer we are practically vegetarians” said Lewis “We grow so much we have to eat to catch up”
She also spends time working with her art group WACK (Whatcom Artists of Clay and Kiln). Who are a collection of artists from the county with a shared love of ceramic artwork. They are holding an art show called Clay Extravaganza at Depot Market Square on March 5 of next year.
Lewis plans to keep teaching at Whatcom, being involved in making and appreciating local artwork and, pursuing personal hobbies.
“The problem now is finding enough hours in the day to do what I want to do” Lewis said.