Inside ASU’s Illustrious Ceramics Collection

Like a lost art treasure of living generations, the Ceramic Research Center sits almost buried under an engineering building, accessible only through an entrance between Sixth and Seventh Streets in the aptly named “Brickyard”.

Once inside, guests are greeted by one of the most respected ceramic collections, housed by a school with the fourth-largest ceramic arts program in the nation, according to US News and World Report.

Since its first opening in 2002, the Ceramics Research Center has acquired over 4,000 pieces of ceramic art, of which approximately 800 are currently on display.

The open storage contains archived work from the 1950s and features well-known ceramists such as Robert Arneson, Toshiko Takaezu and Marilyn Levine, to name a few. A team of curators are working to identify any unnamed pieces, said Sarah Kelly, Windgate curator of contemporary crafts and design at the center.

“The center is just a handful of facilities around the world that combine access to an extensive ceramics collection, important archival research materials and exhibition space,” said Mary -Beth Buesgen, curator of the Ceramics Research Center and Archive.

The ceramics collection has grown steadily over the years thanks to donations from local and national collectors, Buesgen said.

The curators’ process includes a panoramic inquiry guided by the principles “of innovation, risk taking and merit with a primary focus on work that explores social, political and environmental concerns in our regional and global contexts”, said Buesgen.

The center prides itself on fostering a ceramics community like no other by welcoming everyone from clay rookies to clay masters, said Susan Beiner, a professor at the School of Art specializing in ceramics.

READ MORE: An overview of the permanent collection of the ASU Art Museum

Under the direction of ASU Art Museum Director Rudy Turk, the museum is setting a precedent for innovation by acquiring prints and crafts, which Buesgen says “are often overlooked by institutions. “.

Susan Peterson, who moved to Scottsdale in 2008, was a clay blazer and an educator on the history of the form. She donated her entire collection of ceramics and her personal library to the museum, which represents the majority of the pieces currently held in the space. Thanks in large part to Peterson’s donation, the museum now houses more than 3,000 titles of rare exhibition catalogs, books, periodicals and media.

A prized possession of the library is the 30-year set of “The Studio Potter” magazine, a publication launched in 1972 by publisher Gerry Williams, which documented creative activity in the field of ceramics through reviews , oral histories, transcribed interviews, photos and journals. . The library is currently being digitized and is accessible via a online database.

While the library and rotating permanent collection are accessible year-round, the museum also currently offers “Brightness and Light”, a temporary spring exhibition until mid-May.

“Luster and Light” contains works primarily from the museum’s permanent collection that feature a variety of materials such as gold and iridescent glass to create a brilliant appearance when paired with light, Kelly said.

The collection “asks if and how art museums encourage hierarchical thinking through the decisions they make about the types of objects they collect and display in their exhibits,” Kelly said.


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Devon Mendrzycki echo reporter

Devon is a junior studying management.


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