Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Meet Benjie Heu, Southeast ceramics professor

Monday, May 10, 2021
Professor Benjie Heu’s students paint glaze on lids for travel mugs in his ceramics one through five class.
Photo by Miya Andrews

Benjie Heu has been teaching ceramics at Southeast for 15 years. Art has always been his passion, and he said when thinking about how to pursue this interest, he thought the best way to continue being creative was through teaching others.

“I always liked art and had always been a creative kid that liked to hang out with painters, printmakers and sculptors and anybody that was different,” Heu said.

When Heu first graduated he was invited to teach children’s art classes on the weekends for 10 dollars an hour, which sparked his inspiration for teaching art to children.

“So I would jump on that and these little gigs of, ‘Will you show my kids how to do this, or do you want to participate in this pottery sale?’ I would get motivated for that,” Heu said.

Heu graduated from the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Ala., with an undergraduate degree in art and then studied at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, Mass., for a year to specialize in ceramics with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Heu then earned his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in ceramics at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

After graduating with his MFA, Heu took several teaching jobs across the country in Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio and California.

“When I got out of undergrad, I thought clay can really do it all because it has a meaning of creative ideas and the science of technology with the mystery of clay, of how it works and how it works with ideas and creating unique things,” Heu said.

Heu gets involved with the ceramics community by traveling and networking with different artists, as well as getting involved with the university clubs he supports.

“I do outreach with local schools, and Project Leadership Academy was just here, and we had 20 fifth and sixth graders with their teachers, and they made little pots [and I fired them], and their teacher Lisa Cupper, SEMO alum, she came back to [pick up their projects],” Heu said.

Heu is also involved with Here. literary magazine, a rustmedia project that seeks to connect high school writers and artists with professional writers and artists from the region.

“We are working with some really talented young people and teenagers in the area and all of the Bootheel area, and they are mostly writers, poets and visual artists,” Heu said.

Heu has his own art career outside of the university that he invests his time in to create.

“I had some work recently at a gallery in Dallas and work in an art gallery in Arkansas, and then I will be presenting my work at the faculty show coming up,” Heu said.

Heu’s ceramics classes will relocate to another building near the River Campus for the fall semester.

“I constantly think about the new building we will be in and ending this chapter here and moving out of this space and moving into a new one,” Heu said.

To find art pieces Heu has created, visit his Instagram and Facebook accounts at @Benjieheu and his university art page at @artanddesignsoutheast.