Both are prolific artists; Smith as a sculptor of clay, steel and stone, and Fiely as a painter and printmaker.
The person who most influenced the path of art professor Steve Smith was a high school teacher in Van Wert who introduced him not only to the visual world of art but to the human side of art. He now sees his most important role to be carrying on similar lessons, which he has been doing at Defiance College for nearly 30 years. In the classroom and the studio, Smith has the ability to motivate students to think beyond the superficial, to reach for a higher level of mastery in a skill or concept, and to develop a necessary work method.
Fiely grew up along Grand Lake St. Mary’s in Celina where he was influenced by “the fishing folk,” his parochial education, and his family’s newspaper business. By the time he entered college, he had a keen interest in art and eventually became a high school art instructor in Stryker. After 30 years as a public school teacher, he joined Defiance College as assistant professor of art.
As faculty colleagues, Smith and Fiely share with students their knowledge and experience as skilled artisans and instill a work ethic and an understanding of art and its relevance to the real world. They encourage an early, hands-on approach in the classroom as students explore their artistic interests and various techniques.
As a child, Smith wanted to be an archeologist. As an adolescent, his interest was mechanical things, and as a young adult he became interested in politics and religion and their impact on culture. “My work is a balance of these – a love of the past, finding a material or technique to tell the story of a culture, real or make-believe,” he says. He sees art as an avenue to change the world, to be of service to others.
Thus, he has taken his talent to places like Chile where he gave technical training to staff of a cultural arts center to teach indigenous potters to produce pottery for sale. As part of Defiance’s McMaster School for Advancing Humanity, Smith has ventured to Israel and Belize where he has worked with artists to develop their craft.
Fiely was professionally trained in printmaking but in recent years has become an avid painter. He also enjoys creating ceramic art and has teamed with Smith on some distinctive clay pieces.
Another dimension of Fiely as artist is his love of music. As a student of the Sixties, he says that the Beatles and Bob Dylan “caught my attention in a big way.” He learned to play the guitar and began writing songs. His musical passion continues, and he frequently performs in local venues. He also directs Defiance College’s Schomburg Series, a 30-year tradition of bringing high quality performances to the campus and community at affordable ticket prices.
Smith and Fiely have led art-focused tours to Europe and have collaborated on Art Night, an open studio night for the community. They are hoping to continue the popular community night this fall.
Both men operate home studios, and their work can be found in galleries across the country.