Dozens of unique cups, pots and a variety of other pieces of pottery sit on rectangular pedestals across the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center gallery. These works, each one from a potter from St. Croix River Valley, are a part of the 2020 Clay Fest exhibit.
Clay Fest is an art exhibit that takes place every two years. It opened Feb. 17 and closes on March 6 in the CDFAC gallery. According to Assistant Art and Design Professor Barry Barnes, Clay Fest is funded by a foundation that supports ceramics called the Mary Howes Woodsmall Foundation.
The Clay Fest exhibit was set up by Adjunct Faculty Gallery Coordinator Mark Ruschman.
In addition to Ruschman, the three students in his Gallery Studies class, senior English and creative writing major Tyrah Chery, senior animation and illustration major Matthew Fizer and senior animation and illustration major Moyan Li, assisted him in setting up the exhibit.
“My role as a student in the gallery studies class is to help and support Mark, the coordinator, and the artists and whoever is setting up the gallery,” Fizer said. “I’m just another pair of hands and eyes to look and make sure everything is set up correctly.”
According to Ruschman, this exhibit is different from past Clay Fests. Unlike past exhibits where the work is borrowed from artists and is then returned, the works on display in this exhibit are now a part of University of Indianapolis’ permanent art collection.
After the exhibit, the works will be displayed across campus or in the new ceramics building if there is space, according to Barnes.
This year’s theme revolves around functional pottery such as cups, plates and pots. A total of 13 potters are featured in the gallery, including potter Linda Christianson.
“I guess I’m still in love with… the clay material and I make pottery as opposed to sculpture or bricks or something else with clay, because I like the connection to using pots,” Christianson said. “They’re everyday things that can do their duty as useful things. And also they have the potential to be beautiful or engaging as objects on their own. It’s like art with an extra credit.”
What inspired the functional pottery theme, according to Barnes, was what his students were interested in. When he asked his students, he found that they were interested in functional work.
“I thought we’d do more hand building and sculptural work,” Barnes said. “But the students here I found… most of them are interested in function.”
According to Christianson, Barnes and his wife visited St. Croix River Valley in the fall of 2019. He visited different studios in the area and bought pieces to display at Clay Fest.
Freshman international relations major Sophia Becerra attended the gallery’s opening on Feb. 17. She said she attended because she enjoys art and wanted to see an art form different from her own, which is pencil and paper.
“I thought [the pieces] were all very beautiful” Becerra said. “I thought [the gallery] was very fascinating and a lot of hard work, but I feel like the artists themselves think that’s very worth it. And that’s what a piece of art should be: worth it.”