doing it right
By Cathy Toscano ’04, M’05
Unlike most eight-year-olds, Harry Bower '75 knew he didn't want
to be an astronaut or pro wrestler when he grew up. He wanted to
be an art teacher. "I still have a report card from second grade;
on it my teacher wrote, 'Harry's artwork should be encouraged.'"
the past 16 years, the Toms River High School art instructor has
lived out his dream. His skill and creativity have earned him two
Dodge Fellowships and a Fulbright Memorial Fund Award, among other
While studying art at Glassboro State, Bower found himself
in the field of weaving. "I was supposed to have another course and
somehow ended up having Kumiko Murishima," he said. "Kumiko was most
inspiring and pretty much set the tone for my artwork. She uses very
traditional techniques that I try to incorporate into my work."
as a "fiber artist," Bower combines nontraditional materials, such
as tree branches or plastic, with traditional weaving techniques
to create "fiberistic sculptures." "For example," said Bower, "I
might try and make a kimono out of wire. The final product will take
on the shape and look like a kimono, but will not be functional as
Since his first at Glassboro State, Bower has participated
in more than 30 art shows. His work has appeared in exhibits all
over the east coast and in other countries, including Japan, Italy
and China. Creating, showing and selling his art are inter-related
aspects for Bower. "I have pieces that are not for sale because they
have a unique meaning to me," he says. "However, I've got about a
million designs in my head that I want to create."
Aside from finding
inspiration in fiber artists such as John Garrison and Andy McGuire,
Bower also gains encouragement from a group of friends he met through
the Artist Teacher Institute, a state program which enables teachers
and artists to meet and exchange ideas. "For 10 years I've worked
with the same group of people every summer and will hopefully continue
to do so," said Bower. "These people have been my inspirations."
he's not teaching high school or participating in shows, Bower enjoys
instructing at workshops. He has run seminars teaching the technique
of book making and how a book can be manipulated into an art form.
He also taught a workshop at the Museum of Art and Design in New
York City, where he used hay as a sculptural form.
As for future
goals, Bower, who resides in Island Heights, hopes to own a gallery
of fine craft when he retires. Unlike a gallery of fine art, a gallery
of fine craft would feature the work of craft artists, be a place
to hold workshops and act as a community venue.
An enthusiastic teacher
already accomplished and recognized in professional circles, Bower
remains committed to growing and developing his work. "Sometimes
I think to myself, 'Is what I'm doing really art?'. But then people
will like something I've made and I say, 'Yeah, I guess it is art' and
I know I must be doing something right."