Earlier this month Raoul Pacheco, Augusta University art professor, took eight ceramic students to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference. The conference featured a panel discussion and digital presentation of socially engaged projects that utilize clay titled Across the Table, Across the Land. The Mad Potters, an Augusta University student organization, were featured in this presentation.
The Mad Potters were featured because of their work with SafeHomes of Augusta, an organization committed to ending domestic violence through advocacy, awareness and education.
Each fall, Tire City Potters, located in downtown Augusta, invites community members to create their own forever pumpkin. A forever pumpkin is made from terracotta clay that can be carved, glazed, fired and then, as the name suggests, kept forever. This year, the Mad Potters decided to collaborate with Tire City and invited women and children from SafeHomes to create their own forever pumpkin. Their pumpkins were then displayed at the SafeHomes Survivor’s Walk on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015.
This project was part of an initiative by Mad Potters to create socially engaged art which is a way of using art to both engage the community and address social causes.
The forever pumpkins were one of the more unique projects featured in Across the Table, Across the Land.
“Most projects were centered on food and eating activities or food distribution,” Pacheco said. “For us, we had dinner during a multifaceted event that provided a creative environment for the survivors of domestic violence, and then we were active participants in the Survivor’s Walk activity on campus.”
However, it wasn’t just the use of clay for something other than eating that made the project unique.
“We provided a creative and healing atmosphere, and while we didn’t necessarily provide an eating activity, we were doing something cathartic,” Pacheco said. “The triangle partnership between Augusta University, the Mad Potters and Tire City Potters was also unique in that most of the projects involved a single group or person with another single group or person. There was nothing like the forever pumpkins. Ours wasn’t a dish but a creative object that allowed people to engage and offered a creative outlet.”
Pacheco believes that the inclusion of the forever pumpkin pumpkins into Across the Table, Across the Land validated the hard work that his students put into the project. Overall, NCECA was a positive experience for his students.
“The conference as a whole was pretty exciting for the undergraduates because they were exposed to the potential future opportunities that await them in the ceramics field,” Pacheco said. “Prior to the conference, I don’t know if they were aware of how much they can do with their degree in the field of ceramics. They were able to talk to representatives from graduate programs and residencies, equipment and retail vendors who sell the equipment that we use. Students were also able to meet the people that they research.”
When student’s attended NCECA in 2015, they were representatives of Georgia Regents University, but this year, they were representing another university, Augusta University. Familiarizing ceramics professionals and graduate and residency programs with Augusta University was a goal of Pacheco’s.
“At NCECA, we saw a lot of ceramic art; we met a lot of ceramic artists; and we networked like crazy,” he said. “We got our brand out there. Folks are starting to recognize what we do here. Graduate programs are taking an interest in our students and want our students to apply. I think I’m achieving my goal as a professor.”
Next year, NCECA will be held in Portland, Oregon. Pacheco and his students are already looking forward to attending.