click to enlarge “Crucible Series #20” by Ken Baskin, the first prize winner at the “Shapes of Influence” exhibit.
“Crucible Series #20” by Ken Baskin, the first prize winner at the “Shapes of Influence” exhibit.

The latest iteration of Springfield Art Association’s biennial “Shapes of Influence” exhibit stands as both an exceptional showcase for original ceramics work from across the country and an introduction to the show’s jurist – world-renowned ceramic artist Simon Levin, who settled in Springfield last November.

Currently on display at the M. G. Nelson Gallery on the SAA campus, “Shapes of Influence” is nearly overwhelming in the variety, quality and volume of the work chosen by Levin, featuring 51 pieces by 51 different artists whose work went through the judging process, along with work by nationally recognized guest artists Dan Anderson, Kahil Irving, Peter Pincus and Kelsie Rudolph, all invited by Levin to participate.

Levin has been a full-time studio artist in rural Gresham, Wisconsin, for the past 18 years and came to town when his wife, Presbyterian minister Susan Phillips, became pastor of Springfield’s First Presbyterian Church. “It was an exciting opportunity for her and I have family in St. Louis, so we decided to move down here,” Levin said. When they were looking into relocating, Levin made contact with the SAA to see what kind of arts community was available in Springfield. “I’m not used to an active arts community, having lived in rural Wisconsin,” Levin said. “I travel around the world and teach in the field and write for journals and magazines, so I’m very active in the larger community – I’ve just never had it where I live.”

Levin acknowledges a symbiotic relationship with Springfield has already formed. Springfield gains from his international connections while he benefits from living in proximity to a supportive local arts community. He has also opened Mill Creek Pottery South at 10220 N. Pawnee Rd. in Pawnee, where he will create and sell his own work along with that of others. “We haven’t fired the kiln yet,” he said. “I’m planning an annual sale, at the end of September, where I invite artists here to showcase their work, focusing on quality and diversity to hopefully draw customers not just from Springfield but also Edwardsville, St. Louis, Bloomington. It would be a yearly event with a lot of pots, a lot of food, a lot of fun.”

First prize for the Springfield Art Association show ($500) was awarded to Ken Baskin for “Crucible Series #20,” with second place ($300) going to to Austin Wieland for “Error” and Jessica Sallay-Carrington receiving third place ($200) for “Concentrate.” In addition to the official award winners, the SAA has added a “people’s choice award” for the show. Art lovers are encouraged to stop by the gallery to vote – and to try not to be discouraged by the construction currently underway on the campus.

“Shapes of Influence” will run through Sept. 1. The M.G. Nelson gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information about Simon Levin, visit or follow @woodfire on Instagram.

Scott Faingold can be reached at

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