A light film of plaster dust covers the concrete floor. Studio lights illuminate a half-finished project hanging from the ceiling.

This is master of fine arts student Casaundra Beard’s studio, located in the basement of the Big Modern Pop Up gallery in downtown Springfield. Walking into the barren studio’s first floor, which is bright and airy from the natural light pouring in, no one would guess Beard’s studio lies underneath.

Beard is a Springfield native and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Missouri State with an emphasis in drawing. Her current degree in visual studies has an emphasis in sculpting. She said her passion for 3D art became apparent during her undergraduate studies. 

“Once I got into (drawing), I had to take a couple of 3D classes and sculpture and just found my ideas came across better three-dimensionally, and I just felt limited with 2D,” Beard said. “I still graduated with a drawing degree but Missouri State is flexible, in that it’s interdisciplinary, so they let you play around.”

Before her time at MSU, Beard showcased a passion for art. Throughout high school Beard took as many art classes as her schedule allowed, and was involved in all art-related extracurricular activities she had time for. Even before then, Beard said in first grade a piece of her art was put on display in the Springfield Art Museum.

Today, Beard is an active graduate student, a wife and a mother to a 3-year-old and a 2-month-old. Beard described balancing her art with being a parent as “chaos,” with a sigh and bout of laughter. Beard said she spends roughly 20 hours a week in her studio.

“(I have) to treat this like a job, otherwise I would just stay home and do laundry or cook or find something that needs to be done around the house,” Beard said.

One of Beard’s biggest inspirations is Louise Bourgeois, known for her sculpting and installation art pieces. Bourgeois was an artist who balanced the weight of being a mother, which is what inspires Beard the most.

“She didn’t let (parenthood) stop her from creating art, and she always found time to make it to the studio and then once her children were grown and out of the house, she made art up until she died in her apartment,” Beard said. “I really admire that and I want that to be a goal for me.”

Although her studio is full of various projects in the making, Beard is currently in the middle of her main MFA exhibition project. Her project revolves around how a family member’s mental illnesses impacted her upbringing.

“I’m really focusing on my relationship with them and how I coped mentally with that as a child and now into adulthood,” Beard said. “This semester I am really focusing on how that affected me growing up.” 

She shared that over her lifetime she has moved over 40 times, due to a family member’s illness.

“We lived in so many houses and apartments but none of them really felt like home to me,” Beard said. “It was just another place we were moving to. As of right now I am making a project with that. I am working with plaster and mold making and I have a little over one-hundred houses right now that I’m setting up as an installation.”

Beard’s plaster houses vary in size and shape to represent the contrasting places she lived in growing up. Pulling out a few houses which were smaller than the others, she explained that her family never stayed long enough in any of their homes to formulate connections. She decided to represent this feeling by creating halves of houses.

Currently, Beard does not have a set number of houses she wishes to create for installation. Rather, she said she plans to be “making houses until I go crazy.”

Sarah Williams, graduate coordinator of the MFA program, said Beard’s interest in installation art is more present than other graduate students in the program. These installations allow her to create an environment for the viewer.

“This requires her to not only think of a sculpture in the round but an entire space and how a viewer approaches it, moves through it, exists in it and how those experiences communicate her ideas and concepts,” Williams said.