Kimball Art Center wants people to get their hands dirty
The Kimball Art Center loves it when people get dirty — especially when they are working with clay.
On Sunday, April 24, the nonprofit will host a grand opening of its new ceramic studio. The event, which will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., will feature kids’ clay activities, adult clay throwing opportunities and wheel demonstrations, according to Kristen McDermaid, ceramics studio manager.
"We’ll have pottery wheels set up for adults who have clay experience so they can come throw some forms that they can leave at the studio for firing, to test the kilns," McDermaid told The Park Record during a tour of the new facilities. "We’ll also have a kids table that will feature air-dry clay, so kids can make a little creation, which won’t require firing, that they can take it home."
In addition, the event will feature light refreshments throughout the day.
McDermaid can’t wait to see visitors’ reactions when they see how big the studio is.
"We have gone up from our old studio on Park Avenue that had 1,200 square feet," she said. "This studio has 2,000 square feet. It’s huge and has a great class capacity."
The studio is designed to host classes, as well as private sessions.
"We offer kids classes, tots classes that start at age 2 and go all the way up to 99," McDermaid said. "Also, the public who have clay experience and a passion for clay can pay a monthly fee to come and use the studio. As you can see, we want to bring people in and get them messy."
The kids classes are divided by ages, but the adult classes aren’t.
"So, we can hold two adult classes at a time," McDermaid said. "We have wheel throwing and table set making classes. It’s great energy to have a lot of people working in here and the classes banter back and forth."
In addition to the classroom space, the new ceramics studio features a kiln room.
"We have two electric kilns that we fire kids-class works in," McDermaid explained. "We also have a high-fire kiln that goes to 2,383 degrees for pottery, and we have a glass kiln for glass fusion folks. And we do quick clay firings in it."
When the Kimball Art Center moved to its current location from Park Avenue, where it had been housed for 40 years, the new ceramics studio was little more than just a garage, so, McDermaid has anticipated the transformation for quite a while.
"It took a long time," she said with a laugh. "But I saw how they had to take what were basically storage units and map out how they wanted everything set up in the studio before they gutted things out.
"The old space was awesome and it had a charm, a homey quality to it, but I’ve been impressed with what we’ve been able to do in this new space," McDermaid said.
In addition to the kiln room, the Kimball Art Center upgraded the sink area and added a spray booth to glaze the ceramics.
"The spray booth was something we couldn’t have in our old space, and now people will have more artistic flow and options because we have it," McDermaid said.
Not only does the studio have ceramic options, it will also house the Kimball Art Center’s metal classes in the tool area.
"We have also been able to care for our metals program here," McDermaid said. "It was small, and we’ve been able to give it a bigger home."
She is also looking forward to working in the studio during the summer.
"We’ll get to open the garage doors and set up our classes outside," McDermaid said. "I’m excited to take a wheel out there and throw some clay outside."
McDermaid’s interest in clay and ceramics sparked in college.
"I was a perpetual student," she said with a grin. "I got hooked in community college classes and was there to get my core classes done."
She wanted to take as many classes as she could.
"Scuba diving was full, so I took a pottery class, which was on my plan B," McDermaid said. "I have the kind of brain that doesn’t click with drawing. I mean, I can draw, but it didn’t do anything with me.
"So, when I started clay, my first teacher said I have a three-dimensional brain," she said. "I found this passion for it and stayed in his class for four years."
After attending a clay conference in San Diego, McDermaid was hooked.
"I realized that people make a living out of doing this, and that was my goal," she said. "I wanted to play in the mud and play with fire and find a way to make that my living."
In addition to completing a BFA and Masters degree at the University of Utah, McDermaid participated in a foreign exchange program in Korea.
"That blew my brain wide open and my work went from compact little forms into some crazy things that interplayed with space and time," she said.
McDermaid started teaching at the Kimball Art Center a year and a half ago.
"I started two days before my birthday and it was the best birthday gift ever," she said with a smile.
Kimball Art Center Artistic Director Amy MacDonald shares McDermaid’s enthusiasm for the new ceramic studio.
"The cool thing about opening a medium-specific facility is it helps us move forward with our idea of becoming a truly creative place that can attract people — local, national, international — who want to make things at all levels," MacDonald explained. "This will help us gain national and international recognition, but still maintain that local sensibility."
The studio will also give the Kimball Art Center a chance to see what’s possible with their ceramics offerings.
"Ceramics classes are hugely popular and our board and staff put enormous support behind changing this garage into a dedicated space for a ceramics studio," MacDonald said. "This allows us to become more sophisticated as we grow and evolve. Not only can we offer many things to the local community, we can bring in national and international artists to host workshops and new classes.
"Everyone is really excited to finally open the doors and get the word out," she said.
The Kimball Art Center, 1401 Kearns Blvd., will celebrate the grand opening of its new ceramic studio on Sunday, April 24, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.kimballartcenter.org.
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