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New Exhibit Looks at History of Clay at Huntington Museum of Art

A new exhibit titled Serendipitous: A History of Clay at the Huntington Museum of Art will look back at the ceramics program at the Huntington Museum of Art and feature works by the roster of nationally known ceramicists who have visited HMA during the past two decades. This exhibit goes on view on June 25 and runs through Oct. 9, 2022, at HMA.

A gallery walk through this exhibit led by HMA Artist-in-Residence Kathleen Kneafsey, who has coordinated the visit of dozens of ceramics artists to Huntington during the past 22 years, will take place on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at 7 p.m. This free event is part of the 4th Tuesday Tour Series at HMA. Refreshments for the event will be available from Lil Creamer Hawaiian Shave Ice while supplies last.

Some of the ceramics artists who have visited HMA as Walter Gropius Master Artists and whose works will be featured in the new exhibit include Andy Brayman, Robert Briscoe, Val Cushing, Julia Galloway, Warren MacKenzie, Janis Mars Wunderlich, and most recently, Sarah Heimann.

Kneafsey has served as Artist-in-Residence at the Huntington Museum of Art for the past 22 years. In addition to teaching various clay classes and maintaining the ceramics studio, she is responsible for inviting world-class clay artists to Huntington, West Virginia, through the Museum’s renowned Walter Gropius Master Artist Program. This engagement includes an exhibit of the artist’s work, a public lecture, and an intensive multi-day workshop conducted in the Museum’s art studios.

Assembled from Kneafsey’s wildest imagination, the list of ceramic artists who have visited the Museum includes both early vanguards of the studio pottery movement and next generation artists redefining what it means to work with clay. For more than two decades, Kneafsey’s efforts have earned this program national prominence.

A native Huntingtonian, Kneafsey left her hometown at 17 years old to pursue her education. “I had my first introduction to clay at the Museum, which led to a life choice that has been completely fulfilling,” Kneafsey said. “That first experience drove me to pursue study in clay, taking me to Clemson where I was fortunate enough to learn from a wonderfully gifted professor and mentor. I also met my husband there, and through his career travels, I was able to study clay in many different places with great artists. Then, we came back to my hometown, and the Museum and I became reacquainted.”

By chance, in 1997, Kneafsey saw an advertisement at Marshall University that the Huntington Museum of Art was looking for someone to teach children’s pottery. Perfectly suited for the role, her appointment soon expanded to include additional classes and, in 2000, after finishing graduate school at Miami University, the Museum offered her the position of Artist-in-Residence, a role she has cherished ever since. “My family has grown right along with this program,” Kneafsey said. “When I started in this position, I was expecting my first child, and the way I recall the dates of an artist’s visit is by how many children I had at the time or which child I was pregnant with. Many of the artists whom I asked to visit were chosen because they were parents themselves. I selfishly wanted to see how they juggled all the balls in the life of an artist, teacher, and parent. So, the growth of the program and the growth of my family, now three children in all, are completely intertwined.”

Kneafsey’s lifelong commitment to ceramics education quietly underlies Serendipitous: A History of Clay at the Huntington Museum of Art. This sprawling exhibit, built from the Museum’s permanent collection, features contemporary ceramic artworks made by visiting artists in the Walter Gropius Master Artist Program. Brief recollections by Kneafsey, extruded from memory, accompany select artworks and enrich the gallery presentation.

This exhibit is presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

For more information about events and exhibits at the Huntington Museum of Art, visit hmoa.org or call (304) 529-2701. HMA is fully accessible.

West Virginia residents may obtain a summary of the registration and financial documents from the Secretary of State, State Capitol, Charleston, WV 25305. Registration does not imply endorsement.