In 2018, Alex Kraft and Melanie Shaw produced Critical Function, a stunning exhibition for the Pittsburg NCECA. Four internationally recognized critics and curators: Gail M. Brown, Janet Koplos, Paul Mathieu, and Anthony Merino each selected ten functional artists, whose work they admired. The exhibition engaged artists, students, collectors, and educators equally; making for a critical and commercial success. For 2020, Kraft and Shaw have kept the essential framework but reworked the selected guest jurors to reflect the NCECA theme: multiVAlent: clay, mindfulness, and memory. Bernadette and Neil Mansfield, Jill Foote-Hutton, Carole Epp, and Garth Johnson agreed to contribute their expertise and experience to this endeavor.

In the last 40 years there has been a continued pattern of exponential growth of engagement in the field of ceramic art. Without question, all four jurors have played important and mindful roles in promoting contemporary ceramics. Taking the main theme of multiVAlent into consideration—one characteristic connecting this diverse jury is the following: each person meaningfully expands the way ceramics are examined and promoted locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Each of the jurors pioneered new ways to promote ceramic art and ceramic artists. Bernadette and Neil Mansfield edit Ceramics: Art and Perception and Yarrobil, continuing Janet Mansfield’s vision of producing truly international ceramic journals. Jill Foote-Hutton, a maker in her own right, is Editor of The Studio Potter. She promotes social craft practice through,, and created the MJ Wood Residency as well as an Artists as Writer’s Residency at Red Lodge Clay. Carole Epp compiles the well-known Musing About Mud blog and Instagram feed, created to promote Canadian ceramic artists, and is an internationally celebrated artist ( Garth Johnson is the Curator of Ceramics at the Everson Museum with writing contributions such as the blog and 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse. All were early pioneers in the use of social media and the world wide web to promote ceramics. Each juror carries forward a personal mission that promotes contemporary ceramics through community-oriented educational outreach. They inform their audience of current practice in relation to historical tradition and technical memory in the field of ceramics.

As with the first iteration of the exhibition, none of the jurors were given directions as to how they should make their selections. The only restrictions placed were not to include any of the artists who took part in the 2018 exhibition, and to consider their own interpretation of “functional ceramics” in their decisions. Critical Function 2 takes the memory of the previous exhibition forward in this exciting new iteration.

NCECA Concurrent exhibition. Sponsored by Visual Arts Center, 1812 W Main St, Richmond, Virginia 23220

Exhibition dates: March 23 to 28, 2020