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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Downtown Davis celebrates Californian ceramics

The California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art (CCACA) is returning to Davi

s for the 26th time. Lectures, demonstrations and 45 major shows of both student and professional ceramic work will take place in Davis from April 25 to 27.

The conference is the legacy of Robert Arneson who was a renowned ceramics professor at UC Davis for nearly three

decades. Arneson was instrumental in making ceramics a fine art as well as a craft.

John Natsoulas has coordinated the conference each year since its inception. Natsoulas and Arneson wanted to advance the field of ceramics by bringing people together to learn from each other.

“I believe that the greatest thing about the conference is that you can’t do anything but walk in downtown Davis on Friday, [April] 25,” Natsoulas said. “You can’t drive a car; we stop the traffic. So that’s a really special thing to have that many people coming to Davis for ceramics.”

A program of two-hour demonstrations and 50-minute lectures by the artists will be offered over the weekend. Visitors will be able to view works on show around downtown Davis for free. Like the Natsoulas Gallery, Davis’ other galleries will be involved in this year’s conference. The Artery, an artists’ cooperative, will host the statewide California Clay Competition.

Artists and presenters include Arthur González, Paolo Porelli, Wesley Anderegg and Esther Shimazu among others. Artists and visitors come from all over the world but the conference prides itself on being a celebration of Californian art.

“Ultimately, what people will get out of this weekend is they’ll be able to see so many different types of ceramics and ceramic sculpture. They’ll see the whole state,” Natsoulas said.

As well as established names, the conference initiates students further into the world of ceramics. Students will be able to interact with artists and professors from the many California colleges. Natsoulas believes there is no competition amongst artists, only good will and a sharing of experience.

“[Students] are so proud of their work, they’re so interested in being a part of what we’re doing and they’re so enthralled with the ideas that we are demonstrating,” Natsoulas said.

Don Fritz studied under Arneson and has been an associate professor at Santa Clara University for over 10 years. Fritz will be bringing students from Santa Clara University to display their work in Davis. In a phone interview, Fritz echoed Natsoulas’ emphasis on the opportunity for young artists to interact with established names.

“It’s really cool for the students to have a bit more of a professional experience, having their work seen and possibly collected,” Fritz said. “I’ve sold work out of the show for students before.”

Fritz’s own work will be on display. This year he is also a juror responsible for selecting work at The Artery.

“UC Davis was probably the best school to go to in the ‘70s for a degree in art. You had Rob Arneson heading the ceramics and there were a lot of students who went on to get famous. It was quite an exciting place to be for clay,” Fritz said. “John [Natsoulas] is keeping that legacy alive and this is the center point for ceramics in Northern California.”

Donna Billick was also taught by Arneson. For the last 16 years, she has founded and taught the Art/Science Fusion Program at UC Davis, alongside Diane Ullman. Billick’s work will be on display and she will be giving a lecture on April 25 about the creation of public art. In a phone interview, Billick spoke about her experience with CCACA.

“I’m really impressed with the magnitude of the ceramics brought into Davis, which will be shown both at the Natsoulas [Gallery] and at extensive venues around the town,” Billick said. “[The conference] is unique, it’s free to go around the exhibits and will change the way you see art.”

Visitors will be able to see the sculptures on display around downtown Davis for free. Tickets for lectures and demonstrations range from $177 to $199 and discounts are available for students. Registration is online at http://www.natsoulas.com/.

 ZOE SHARPLES can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

Photos by Jennifer Wu.

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