New Clay Center exhibit features work from past, present residents |

New Clay Center exhibit features work from past, present residents

Carbondale artist John Cohorst is one of about 30 past and present Carbondale Clay Center residents represented in "History in the Making."
Jessica Cabe / Post Independent |


Who: Past and present Carbondale Clay Center resident artists

What: ‘History in the Making’ opening reception

When: 6-8 p.m. on Friday (exhibit up through Sept. 25)

Where: Carbondale Clay Center

How much: Free

For the past 18 years, the Carbondale Clay Center has been building its reputation in the national and international ceramic arts scene by providing resident artists with the unique opportunity to make work, unhindered.

On Friday, about 30 of the 44 residents that the Clay Center has supported will be represented in “History in the Making,” an exhibition that illustrates the impact the Clay Center has had around the nation and the world through its residents.

“We always have an intro to the community show in September because it’s the start of our new residency program, so we view it as the start of our new year,” said Matthew Eames, interim director and resident artist at the Clay Center. “So with that in mind, we planned this show to draw in the community. We came up with a show that would have all of our previous residents, and since there was such a large number, it seemed like a very intriguing way to show our lineage, history and our potential future.”

While not all of the previous residents were able to submit work for a variety of reasons, Eames said the overall response from the artists was one of excitement and positivity.

Albion Stafford, who was a resident at the Clay Center from 2000-2002 and who currently works in Normal, Illinois, said his time as a resident allowed him the freedom to explore his craft.

“The Clay Center was an amazing experience — pivotal at my young age at the time, 22, trying to become an artist,” Stafford said. “It gave me a leg up and a safe place to try that out. And I’ve missed Carbondale as a town and a lifestyle so much.”

Staci DeBolt, who was a resident from 2013 to 2014, had a similar experience.

“It was incredible,” she said. “It was the best thing that I’ve ever done.”

DeBolt, who now lives in Indianapolis and creates art full-time in a studio she set up in her garage, said the variety of experiences the Clay Center offers makes the residency invaluable.

Each resident is given a solo exhibition, as well as a variety of opportunities to show and sell art in other group shows. The community is supportive and offers opportunities beyond the Clay Center, like workshops at the Anderson Ranch or involvement in shows through the CCAH and other organizations and galleries. And the residents teach adult and children’s clay classes, giving them experience beyond that of a studio artist.

“It was great to teach in clay, and I found that really helped my own work just because I had to learn how to do different techniques that I wouldn’t have normally used,” DeBolt said.

DeBolt is an example of the Clay Center impacting the national ceramic community. She came to Carbondale specifically for the residency, and she has taken the name “Carbondale Clay Center” across the country with her. About half the resident artists represented in “History in the Making” fall into this category. The Clay Center is even gaining an international reputation, as 2014-15 resident Susie Pentelow came to Carbondale from England.

But interestingly enough, the Clay Center has also been responsible for reeling artists into the Carbondale community and keeping them here. Alix Knipe, who was a resident from 2006 to 2007, had moved to the Roaring Fork Valley originally for an Anderson Ranch workshop, but she planned to be here only temporarily. Then, she found out about the Clay Center and was accepted as an artist in residence.

“The Carbondale Clay Center residency was kind of that hook that kept me here,” Knipe said.

Knipe remains in the valley today, teaching classes at CMC and creating work. She said the opportunity to make work basically full time in a great facility had a huge impact on her as an artist.

“I think the Clay Center is a really important asset to this community,” Knipe said. “It was pivotal in providing me time to really explore and find my own voice after getting out of school. It’s a difficult time in an artist’s life to navigate. To get out of school and set up your own studio can be a huge burden, and it definitely does affect your work if you’ve got to put $1,000 into this and $1,000 into that. There’s a certain freedom you have in a residency because you didn’t have this huge overhead, and that artistic freedom is really important.”

What’s interesting, Knipe said, is that the Carbondale Clay Center has a reputation across the nation in the clay community, but there may be people living in Carbondale who don’t realize how influential it is.

“A lot of the previous residents have gone on to become famous artists and make really amazing work,” Knipe said. “Everybody in the clay world knows Carbondale. The town has this reputation as a place that’s great for ceramic artists, and it’s because of the Carbondale Clay Center.”

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