While longtime Art professor and local ceramic artist Dick Benson is stepping away from his everyday teaching duties after more than 25 years in the classroom, he is not retiring from his art.
Benson began taking classes at the college in 1972 at what was then the Bakersfield Extension located in portable units at Burroughs High School. Inspired by energetic and innovative faculty like Don Rosenberg, Carol Hewer, and Paul Meyers, he has seen many changes at the college since the original building opened up on the hill in 1973. “The good news is,” said Benson “you’re getting a remodel. And the bad news is…you’re getting a remodel.”
From a single boring building on the hill with no landscaping to what is now an aesthetically beautiful campus with many buildings that support academic instruction, campus life, and community engagement, Benson has played an artistic role in the creative atmosphere enjoyed by so many. He transferred from Cerro Coso to Humboldt State University, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art, and taught ceramics, sculpture, and painting as an adjunct instructor for many years. “In those days we poured bronze, built our own fire kilns, and it was a great place to learn and be an artist,” he said. “You could take classes over and over again, and you didn’t need a Master’s Degree to teach. We spent 8 to 12 hours every day in the studio. But it didn’t feel like work, it was fun.”
He took a few years off and went to UC Irvine to earn a Master’s in Art and started as a full-time faculty member in the Art Department in 1990. Through the years, the art studios have slowly evolved, adding additional space that inspires the work of teachers and students. In the 1990s Professor Benson taught a Gallery class that brought in fresh, young, up and coming artists and their work, enhancing the classroom experience by exposing students and the community to new collections and innovations in the art world.
Benson says he will miss the students the most, but “when you have taught students, children of students, and grandchildren of students, it’s time to get out before the great grandchildren of students start showing up,” he joked. In retirement, Benson plans to spend more time in his own studio at the Iron Hat Ranch and produce more pieces for Benson Pottery, the business he owns with his wife Debbie. Active in the local art community, he will volunteer, hold more art showings, and assist his wife in her work as Director of the Maturango Museum, an important educational and cultural resource in Ridgecrest. “I have so much to do in retirement,” concluded Benson, “I’m looking forward to it.”
Everything you can imagine is REAL – Picasso.