search  current discussion  categories  events - exhibitions 

sfpn awards / alfred

updated fri 2 may 03


karen gringhuis on wed 30 apr 03

Dear Donn -

Before discussing the SFPN jurying and awards, let's
all remember to say a continuing THANK YOU to all the
people who have worked hard over the years to
establish SFPN as a major show in this country. This
show has done a very great deal to bring functional
work the respect it deserves.

Looking at the list of SFPN awards, Donn you missed a
few - approximately 7 of the 24 awards listed went to
Alfred graduates (and there may be others whose
names I don't recognize). My initial reaction was
similar to yours I admit. But calm down and think a
little further.

"Nepotism" exists everywhere at every level including
invitational shows of work by established faculty
curated by faculty for minor municipal museums.
Embarassing, sure - but responsible for "what keeps
clay a second class citizen"? Hardly. If the work
jurors choose is bad work, that's a different story.
Even you admitted that the two top award winners make
good work. Life is full of tough choices even for
jurors. To factor into these decisions "an appearance
of propriety" as you suggest would be silly and unfair
to all concerned including the viewers.

>I know alfred is a great school, and it can be said I
harbor feelings about not getting in<


>And I want to be fair herE<

REALLY? Could have fooled me! First look at the
sheer numbers of students graduating from any given
ceramics program. Alfred probably sends more grads
into the world than any other school. Alfred also has
the largest number of ceramic faculty members of any
school in the country. Name one other school
in the WORLD with SIX faculty - all FULL time and
tenured. These two factors alone significantly
increase the probability of Alfred students creating
good work and being accepted into shows.

>Alfred is great< As the proud holder of an Alfred
degree in ceramics, I can confirm this. I am, however,
also an analytical & reasonably objective adult.

>in the past it has graduated some great talent<

AND IT STILL DOES. So, Donn, let's get down to the
quality of the work which is really the core of this

I was a ceramic collector before I decided to attend
school to improve my own work. I have a very good eye
and travel around the country occasionally visiting
student studios, both graduate and undergraduate, at
many universities. Very frequently I see work in
graduate studios that is no better than that of Alfred
undergraduates. To this day, Alfred has
undergraduates producing work as good or better
than that of many graduate students at other schools

Alfred is selective in its admissions including of
very serious transfer students from other ceramic
programs, provides a great ceramic education and turns
out students who do good work. When they are accepted
in noticeable numbers into competitive shows, why is
the world surprised? Envious perhaps, but it's really
no mystery.

>What has happened here is what keeps clay a second
class citizen<

Donn, your history is weak. Clay is, and has been,
particularly in the Western world, a "second class
citizen" for many decades (centuries?) and for many

One of these reasons currently is the lack of even
minor criticism of clay work. We live in a pluralistic
society in which it is far too often deemed
politically incorrect to publically judge, identify
and discuss good work from bad work. The art world,
including the ceramics world, is part of this society.
Until this changes for ceramics (we can't help the
larger art world), clay work is unlikely to make an
overall improvement in quality or quantum leap in

Jurors are actually among the few powers out there
making any kind of choices at all between good and bad
work. I also know of jurors who take the time to
actually write some of the people rejected with
comments and encouragement.

If you are so concerned about clay's "second class
status", perhaps you can convince some major shows to
include a seminar in which the juror shows and
discusses ALL of the slides submitted clearly
identifying why some works were selected and others
rejected. Now THAT would be educational and perhaps
help all of us learn to make better work. But so long
as jurors, critics and publications continue to do
nothing but "play nice" publically - god forbid
anyone's feelings should be hurt - things aren't going
to change.

(If you want to stretch your mind further along these
lines, read the essay by Raphael Rubenstein on
painting - it applies equally to ceramics - in the
March issue of Art in America .)

"Nepotism" has been around forever, clay has been
"second class" for decades and wiping out "nepotism"
wouldn't change this. Let's all get over it and get
back to our studios.

Karen Gringhuis
KG Pottery
Box 607 Alfred NY 14802

Do you Yahoo!?
The New Yahoo! Search - Faster. Easier. Bingo.

terry sullivan on thu 1 may 03

I have been waiting to see if anyone was going to respond to Donns
insulting comments regarding SPFN
( and taking a little time to cool off before responding ).

Karen Gringhuis stepped up to the plate and pretty much said it all.

I add: the SPFN had, I believe, about 1000 entries this year and 100
accepted. There is no place on the application or on the slides for
where the applicant went to school.
Even if one imagined that Wayne Higby would actually give current or
former Alfred students preference, and that is one hell of an insult to
Waynes integrity, how in the heck could he, as only one of six Alfred
ceramics instructors, remember the work of one of their students on
sight mixed in with hundreds of others work ? I don't think so.

Alfred teaches hundreds of potters every year and they teach them well.
Also; it isn't uncommon for students from a particular school to enter a
show in unusual numbers. This can be because the instructors are
encouraging them to do so and/or because they were aware of the show
because one of their instructors was a juror.
So ya got a disproportionate number of applicants from a particular
school, and they are well trained in making good pots and the importance
of good slides. Well......?

Lastly; I saw all the pieces in the SPFN this year and looked them over
very carefully before the awards were announced ( Nottingham sponsors a
purchase award). My short list of about 8 pieces before choosing the
one we would purchase included 6 of the pieces that were subsequently
given awards.
Hmmm, lets see; I don't know Wayne Higby, never attended Alfred, and
don't know any of the folks who got awards. Well what do ya know.
Coincidence ? No, just recognition of good pots. Duh !

Donn, I think you owe Wayne, and perhaps Jean Lehman, an apology. Way
out of line dude.

Terry Sullivan
Director, and Chief Gofer
Nottingham Center for the Arts
San Marcos, CA