The origins of the The National K12 Ceramic Exhibition Foundation, Inc. derive from a simple set of facts:
- The exhibition of K12 student ceramics represents the fulfillment of the dreams of the K-12 ceramics community
- The exhibition requires an enormous amount of work and expense to stage annually
- The exhibition is too important to risk losing
The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference is the preeminent ceramic event in the US annually, gathering professionals from universities, colleges, museums, art galleries and the ceramic arts world to a host city to view exhibitions, demonstrations, talks and other ceramic events. For the duration of the conference, the host city is the world capital of ceramics. Also at these conferences are ceramics teachers who work in schools, in grades kindergarten through grade 12 (K12). When these people met at conferences before 1995, they expressed the desire to see the program of activities include K12 interests such as talks, forums, meetings, and a K12 exhibition. The pace of inclusion was felt to be too slow and the teachers began to take things into their own hands.
In 1998 Leah Schlief, from Ursuline Academy in Dallas Texas, who had been part of the national K-12 ceramic teachers groups for years of NCECA conferences, took the initiative to start the K-12 exhibition. Her first steps were so validating for other professional clay educators, keeping it alive became a necessity for the K12 ceramic community. Her hard work, dedication, persistence and perseverance were remarkable. But as one person trying to pull so much together, it was clear to the K12 teachers that help was needed. Recognizing these facts, Dr. Bob Feder, of Bridgewater-Raritan High School in Bridgewater, NJ, began to organize a cohesive group of corporations and individual teachers to fund and support the exhibition. He first enlisted the aid of an amazing teacher, Lee Burningham of Box Elder High School in Utah, and they began to raise funds and create a body of commitments upon which an organization could be built. The goal was to create a structure that would outlive the founders and guarantee the survival of the exhibition as the original people aged and passed down the leadership to younger people.
The Foundation Forms Itself
At the NCECA conference in Charlotte in 2001, Bob approached Jim Skutt of Skutt Ceramics to ask if he had seen the exhibition. He had seen it and was complementary with his response. He faced a simple request, "How about giving us $1,000 a year forever." When Jim Skutt said, "OK", the foundation had the beginning of an annual budget. With his guidance, Bob approached a series of people and by the end of the conference, he and Lee had lined up enough people to insure the exhibition would stay alive for a while. Jim Skutt helped us find other Founding Members: Russ Fish and Ben and Lee Powell from Clayworld; Richard Arnfeld from Spectrum Glazes; Kenton Oakes from Creative Industries; and Rick MacPherson from Aardvark Clay and Supplies. The consistent support of these Founding Members has given The Foundation the ability to plan and make commitments to insure the survival of the exhibition. Without their support we would not exist today and would never have been able to grow toward achieving our scholarship and educational goals.
After the Charlotte conference, Bob approached Ned Cohn of Cohn, Bracaglia and Gropper of Somerville, NJ for help with creating a non-profit corporation. Papers were drawn up and the following year in Kansas City, the new board incorporated. The original board members included: Bob Feder; Leah Schlief; Lee Burningham; Steven Branfman of Newton, MA; Clay Sewell from Aurora, IL; Paula Sibrack Marian, of Sherman, CT; and Kevin Tunstall of Dayton, OH. Shortly thereafter, Kenton Oakes of Creative Industries joined the board as secretary and a year later became secretary-treasurer. The board added Professors Jim Connell of Winthrop University, Judith Schwartz of NYU, and Billie Sessions of California State University at San Bernardino, and teachers Barbara Beasley of Clovis West High School in California and Francis Johnson of Barnstable High School in Massachusetts. John Williams, of Trinity Ceramics in Dallas, Texas, an original supporter of the exhibition, came on to the board in 2003.
Goals and Dreams of The National K12 Ceramic Exhibition Foundation
Three simple goals frame the foundation today:
- Support The National K12 Ceramic Exhibition at the highest level possible
- Support teachers of ceramics who are looking for assistance
- Raise money to provide scholarships for students wishing to study ceramics