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Alumnus represents UNT as first artist-in-residence at The Epic facility

Alumnus represents UNT as first artist-in-residence at The Epic facility

Alumnus represents UNT as first artist-in-residence at The Epic facility
November 14
10:30 2018

Sitting at his pottery wheel, Horacio Casillas molds the clay into the shape of a bowl. Light pours from the window into his studio as the 27-year-old creates the smooth, balanced pot before he takes it off the wheel.

Casillas learned the skills of his craft in the art building at UNT but his studio is far away from the halls he graduated from in May. He is now the artist-in-residence at The Epic, a 120,000-square-foot recreation facility in Grand Prairie, Texas. Through the residency, Casillas will get to create whatever he wants in the studio while also teaching ceramic art classes in the facility.

“It’s really good because most people [when they] think of art, they think of painting or sculpture and ceramics gets lost because it’s a craft,” Casillas said. “It was really exciting to see that they would pick this medium to represent UNT for the first time.”

The year-long residency is a collaboration between the city of Grand Prairie and UNT’s College of Visual Art & Design. It is offered to post-graduate students and it comes with a free, fully furnished apartment in The Epic, a free studio stocked with supplies and a stipend.

“This is truly the best situation I could possibly be in, I don’t know how else to say that,” Casillas said. “It’s literally like winning the lottery. I won the artist lottery.”

Just six months ago, Casillas had no idea he would be living in a recreational facility with his own personal studio. At the time, he was searching for residencies to apply to in hopes he would be able to continue creating ceramic art.

When The Epic opportunity came along, it opened up a door for Casillas to continue a passion he has pursued throughout his entire life.

Exploring his love for art

Horacio Casillas creates vases, teapots, cups and more. Mallory Cammarata

Casillas grew up in San Angelo, Texas, after moving from Mexico when he was 6 years old. His passion for art was always a part of him through his family and his hometown.

“[I grew] up in a small town, going to a high school where there wasn’t really an art program,” Casillas said. “My art teacher, was also my Spanish teacher and she had never taught art before, but I loved it regardless.”

Casillas graduated from Veribest High School and ended up pursuing his bachelor’s degree at San Angelo University. It was there that he discovered his love for ceramics.

“I really liked working with my hands, more than painting or drawing or anything like that,” Casillas said. “I had the potential to make anything with clay. I just kept taking it and then eventually declared my major as ceramic art.”

In December 2013, he graduated from San Angelo University but still wanted to explore art and ceramics. After taking a year and a half off to work, Casillas applied to UNT’s College of Visual Arts & Design graduate school.

Going to grad school was never a part of Casillas’ plan but said he felt like he had just started to scratch the surface in perfecting his craft. He started at UNT in fall 2015, studying ceramics in the Department of Studio Art. Since then, he has found a passion for the medium and the impact the functionality of his art has.

“I can give somebody a piece or somebody can buy a piece, and they take a little bit of me with them,” Casillas said. “In a world where people buy things or there’s so much waste and it’s not very useful, I feel like if I’ve been given this gift to create, why not create something that can be used?”

From bowls to cups to teapots, he creates items others can put to good use.

“He’s not just making pots — he’s thinking about the impact and the value that arts and culture bring to communities,” said Lauren Lake, professor and chair of the Department of Studio Art at UNT.

No matter what the piece ends up being, the ability to make art holds a deeper meaning for Casillas. It is more than just something he is good at and enjoys — it is a form of worship.

“For me, the way I saw it was a gift from God and I needed to glorify him in utilizing it the best way,” Casillas said. “When I think of art, it’s like we as humans are mimicking the creator in that simple act of creating.”

An Epic residency

Horacio Casillas works on ceramics in his studio at The Epic. Casillas is a resident artist at The Epic and will move into the facility Nov. 17. Mallory Cammarata


asillas remembers when he found out he would be The Epic’s first artist-in-residence. The uncertainty he felt as graduation approached was suddenly replaced with relief.

“More than anything, I felt gratitude and just this relief I had something lined up,” Casillas said. “A project like this will really open up so many doors, but more than anything, gratitude and relief.”

Lake saw how focused Casillas was in the program and encouraged him to apply.

“He is thoughtful, he is authentic [and] he is a risk-taker,” Lake said. “He has a very honorable way of thinking about the world and the impact arts and design can have on everyone.”

When he interviewed for The Epic, it was clear to them Casillas was a talented artist who was passionate about sharing his knowledge with others.

“We wanted somebody who could help us explain to our community what we’re doing with the program and help educate folks about the understanding of art, how art increases the value of community and can really add to a space,” The Epic general manager Amanda Alms said.

As the first artist-in-residence representing UNT, Casillas is getting to lay the foundation for the program. The department’s hope is that this residency will create new opportunities for artistic collaboration between other cities in Texas and across the nation.

“We’re just excited for this partnership with [UNT] and how Horacio can build that bridge between the two organizations and really just continue to open our eyes to the different opportunities within art,” Alms said.

Casillas will move into The Epic on Nov. 17 when the facility officially opens to the public at 2960 Epic Place in Grand Prairie, Texas.

“I think people should have a connection to art,” Casillas said. “If they have a newfound appreciation for ceramics, that would be great because people see it as a hobby or as just a craft thing, but it’s actually a fine art. I hope people leave with an appreciation for the arts and for the people who make it.”

Featured Image: Horacio Casillas is a resident artist at The Epic in Grand Prairie. He will move in Nov. 17 and plans to teach art classes as well as work on his own art. Mallory Cammarata

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Rachel Linch

Rachel Linch

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