Art teacher Sheila Ferri featured in international sculpture exhibitions

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Divya Ponda, Contributing Writer

“I always wanted to be an artist,” Lower Division Art Teacher Sheila Ferri said. “My mom was an artist, and she passed that love on to me.” 

Ferri’s love for sculpting began when she was in high school. “I took a lot of classes outside of school, with sculptors, and my parents were very, very involved and encouraging,” Ferri said. Now, several of Ferri’s wired sculptures are featured in two galleries: The 34th Annual Materials: Hard and Soft International Contemporary Craft Competition and Exhibition and the Downeast National Sculpture Exhibition 2021.

Ferri has a specific method for creating her art. “I work in spurts and I sometimes work on a couple of pieces at once. A lot of my pieces have multiple parts to them,” Ferri said. “I don’t like to stay idle, because that will make me too crazy, so I’ll go on to something else, and then come back to it.”

At the Tyler School of Art in Pennsylvania, Ferri explored different types of sculpture. “I learned all different aspects of sculpture from figure modeling, clay modeling, bronze casting, aluminum casting, fine metalsmithing for jewelry, and things like that,” Ferri said. After graduating, Ferri received her master’s degree in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. 

Pursuing a career in sculpting was far from easy, Ferri said. “It wasn’t encouraged for a female to be in sculpture,” she said. “Some of the male professors would say, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to major in painting’? But it didn’t discourage me.”

One of her pieces, Ruthie’s Journey, which is currently featured in the 34th Annual Materials gallery, is about her mother. Every detail in the piece contains a memory, she said. “I did things that represented her,” Ferri said. For example, because Ferri’s mother loved to crochet, there is a crochet hook and a ball of yarn presented within the artwork. 

Another one of her pieces, Bedside Necessities, which is displayed in the Downeast National Sculpture Exhibition, is a reference to the pandemic and is meant to be relatable to viewers, Ferri said. The sculpture includes a crafted bedside table with several common items including wire books with bookmarks. 

Working with a material like wire makes it convenient for Ferri to work whenever she has free time — balancing life as a teacher and an artist is not easy, she said.

Another piece of Ferri’s art, Greta’s Burden, is a response to climate change. Ferri was inspired to sculpt this piece because of the environmental burden younger generations are currently facing. “We need to work with our children,” she said. “We cannot leave our planet like this.” 

Despite the challenges, Ferri is grateful for the opportunities she has as an art teacher and loves seeing creative minds every day in the art room, she said.