Humans of Parkland: Meet Peggy Shaw

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Photo by Eddie Scott Photography

Scott Wells

Staff Writer

Peggy Shaw, Associate Professor of Art and Design, is a native of River Forest, Ill., a western suburb of Chicago. Little did Shaw know that as she took her first photography class at Oak Park River Forest High School she began plotting the course for her future.

“I went to the U of I for my undergrad degree and got my masters at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,” Shaw said. “I got to work with incredible professors in an inspiring setting. Walking through the Art Institute everyday on my way to class was a dream come true.”

Upon completing her education, Shaw soon began what became the first part of her career at Parkland.

“After I graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with my Masters in Photography, I was hired as a video producer to produce educational programming of interest to the people of District 505 and showcase the talent and knowledge of the faculty and staff who work at Parkland,” she said.

Teaching was not Shaw’s only role upon her arrival at Parkland, however. She also returned to the classroom as a student, studying African Drumming for two semesters under visiting professor Oscar Sulley Braimah.

“I learned to think about music in a new way,” she said. “It was joyful.”

Feeling her position had become less creative and more administrative, Shaw left Parkland in the early nineties to pursue her own path. She returned nearly a decade later when an opportunity opened up within the art program of the fine and applied arts department.

“I ended up as full time faculty teaching courses in both photography and video,” she said. “And after creating the degree in photography I began to teach additional courses helping students become professional[s] through internships and portfolios.”

Shaw leads her students by example, continuing to create and showcase her art. Along with fellow photographer Greg Rubenstein, Shaw recently took part in the 312 Spring Exhibition at the Practical Angle Gallery in Chicago. She also participated in this year’s Boneyard Arts Festival.

“I think it is extremely important as an artist and as an art professor to be making and showing your work,” she said.

In addition to teaching and making her art, Shaw keeps herself busy with many other activities.

“I play drums and practice constantly,” she said. “I bike when the weather allows, I rescue baby redbud trees, I listen to music, and I write. I like big cities and lots of water so I spend a lot of time on the road.”

While the academic year has just ended for many, Shaw is already looking ahead to the fall semester.

“In the fall I get to teach digital photography, film photography, and video production to those that are interested in pushing themselves in this way and learning new tools and skills”, she stated. “For my advanced students this year will be the time to hone those skills and prepare to be professionals after they graduate from Parkland.”

At the end of the day, Shaw finds her solace at home with her family. Just like her art, her home is a continuing work in progress.

“My husband and I built our own house with our own hands,” she said. “As do-it-yourself people we had to build a road to get to the land, clear a spot for the home site, and then spend the next couple of decades finishing the house and studio around two kids and many pets.”