SHAPED CLAY SOCIETY TURNS CERAMIC CREATIONS INTO FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR ART PROGRAMS
The Shaped Clay Society's annual ceramics sale is a mug lover's dream. Each December a colorful river of the potteryalong with bowls, platters, vases, and morewinds its way through the Shaffer Art Building's galleria, attracting students, faculty, and staff searching for unique holiday gifts, or treats for themselves.
But few shoppers know that the sale is about far more than a search for the perfect mug. The society, made up primarily of ceramics majors and faculty members, has a broader mission. "Our goal is to promote an appreciation and knowledge of ceramics within the group and in the community," says graduate student Mary Cloonan G'99, who served as society president last year. "We want to raise people's standards of what ceramic art can be by showing them it involves more than making flower pots and ashtrays."
The group also helps the ceramics program offer more educational opportunities to students. That was the impetus for Professor Henry Gernhardt and his ceramics students, who held the first Shaped Clay Society sale in 1965. Their goal was to raise money to bring visiting artists to campus. Because there were few ceramics majors, the group created only mugs and cups, and other art majors contributed work. The sale was a success, and the society continued to hold the event each year in different locations around campus, until finding a permanent home in the Shaffer Art Building.
Nearly 35 years later, the sale remains the society's main fund-raiser. Now, however, proceeds support more than just the visiting artists program. Books, art magazines, and even a television and VCR for viewing ceramics videos have been purchased. "Without the sale, we wouldn't be able to support our resource room, or have the caliber of visiting artists that we do," Cloonan says.
The money also supports a scholarship that enables a junior ceramics major to attend a summer conference, workshop, or other related experience each year. The student then shares that experience with the society in the fall.
Last spring, profits from the sale made it possible for society members to attend the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts' annual conference in Columbus, Ohio. Cloonan says everyone who wanted to go donated 30 mugs to last year's sale.
The society frequently turns its attention beyond the ceramics program to the community. It invites the local Ceramics Guild to visiting artists presentations, and helps out with Feats of Clay, a clay-throwing event for high school students held at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse.
In supporting so many activities and opportunities, the Shaped Clay Society's annual sale has become an important part of the ceramics program. Thirty-five years' worth of mugs have left their mark.