Art teachers soaking it in
I had the privilege of visiting the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts earlier this week and it was such a treat. A dozen art teachers creating individually and at the same time collaboratively – sharing their knowledge and soaking up the wisdom of each other. In my undergraduate program I had a ceramics focus so the smell of the clay environment, the feel of the clay in my hands, coupled with the buzz of teachers, enlightened all my senses. And right before my eyes was the center of Watershed’s philosophy, a belief that the unexpected sparks creativity and that new people, ideas and spaces nurture the evolution of artistic practice.
How fortunate for the art educators (mostly from Maine) to take the opportunity to nourish their minds and their souls. The teachers had their own studio space where they were continuing to develop their skills and ideas. It was great to see and speak to the teachers about their work. Visiting also was Beth Lambert, Maine Department of Education Visual and Performing Arts Specialist. Participating in the week were Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leaders Jeff Orth and Gloria Hewett. And this years recipient of the Monhegan Artists’ Residency and colleague of mine from MSAD #40, Krisanne Baker.
While visiting, Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist member Malley Weber shared her present research project – creating ceramic water filters. Malley was intrigued by the idea and has been communicating with and learning from Potters for Peace.
Potters for Peace has provided information has helped in her research. Since 1998, representatives of Potters for Peace have traveled the world assisting with the establishment of small factories or workshops that produce a low-cost ceramic water filter that can bring clean, potable water to those who need it most. They don’t actually make, store or distribute ceramic water filters or operate filter production facilities. They assist local partners to set up their own filter production and distribution facilities. Much of their work has been in Central America with woman potters.
Malley is experimenting with Watershed clay to find the right recipe to create the filters for the local water supply. The lesson is designed for students to:
- understand the global issues around water and the importance of clean water for everyone,
- to experiment with filtering bacteria from water by making their own ceramic water filters,
- to create a well designed and functional receptacle and lid using elements of art and principles of design that will hold the filter, store and deliver water to a glass by either pouring spout or spigot, and
- to observe and draw conclusions based on their experiment.
What an incredible idea that is all about the connections between art and science! Malley’s lesson was filled with the language of both disciplines.
One of the founders of Watershed is my dear friend George Mason. It has been a while since I visited the Newcastle facility that was established in 1986. Such a treat! You can read their story at http://www.watershedceramics.org/about/our-story/. Be sure and check out the opportunities they provide under the watchful eye and commitment of Executive Director Fran Rudoff. Classes are invited during parts of the year and there are community events that are always wonderful!
Thanks to Fran for inviting me to visit and to Malley for sharing her experience!