This online conversation will explore how artists have coped during the pandemic. How and where did they show their work? How were they creative? How did the pandemic affect their mental well being? These are just a few of the topics that will be discussed.
Saturday, March 20, 2021, 3:00pm-4:30pm THIS SATURDAY!
Join us for a special online event celebrating the artists – past, present and future – who make Art of the African Diaspora possible. This event is presented on zoom in partnership with Rhythmix Cultural Works.
Colleen Garland grew up in Richmond and works as a potter and ceramics teacher in the Bay Area. She learned wheel throwing in community college, taking classes at Diablo Valley College and Contra Costa College. Now she rents a studio where she works in clay, and since the covid pandemic she has been making art and teaching ceramics online.
Colleen spoke with Marisa Burman, Richmond Art Center’s Ceramics Manager, on February 9, 2021
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
What are your favorite things about clay and working with ceramics? Why have you chosen this as your primary medium?
I absolutely love clay. I love what clay looks like when it’s fired. I love throwing on the wheel. I love having a purpose. I love serving a purpose.
Coming from a working class background, I think art can be hard to justify as a career. Art is a choice, but you can’t argue with making functional work. And I think that’s something that attracted me to it.
Clay is messy, it’s physical, and there’s infinite variety in what you can do and whatever you do, you can make it absolutely personal.
So, what has it been like for you making art during a pandemic?
I make a lot of wheel thrown work, mostly to fire with Mary Law at her studio in Berkeley. But we had to cancel most of our firings this year because of covid.
So my practice has been a little halted in a way, because I’m not finishing work, but it’s also really opened up what I can make because I’m not limiting myself as much. I’m wheel throwing a lot. Also I’m spending a lot more time on decorating. It’s been a lot of making and not keeping this past year.
Do you consider Mary Law your mentor? She’s a great potter who has been doing ceramics in Berkeley for decades.
This is funny, because I know she’ll read this. I took classes with Mary a lot at Contra Costa College. And I started working with her when I was still a student. I then started doing her website and Facebook and in trade I fire with her. She has taught me about clay, but also so much about life. I would say she’s my friend and my mentor. I have learned a lot from her about how one can live as a potter, about ways of doing this sustainably in terms of taking care of yourself, taking care of your body, and taking care of your finances, so that this can be a viable option.
That makes me feel warm.
She’s very, very important to me.
So you are teaching ceramics online. What has that been like?
At first, in the first few months of the pandemic, when I saw university professors having to instantly switch to teaching, and hearing about how incredibly difficult it was initially, I thought no ceramics class should be online. That’s a ridiculous thing to do. But in time I was offered the opportunity to teach online with Richmond Art Center. I thought it was going to be really hard and it turned out to be really fun. The online classes give me much more room to be creative. I’m able to offer a lot more visual information. Like images of other artists’ work and more historical context. So it’s been a really great experience because I’ve learned how to teach in a new way.
I would keep teaching online, I think even after we go back to in-person, which feels crazy, but it’s been fun.
What are you teaching this session for Richmond Art Center?
I will be teaching ‘Handbuilding: Women in Contemporary Ceramics’ again. Each week we learn from a different woman working in clay in the 20th or 21st century through photos and video, and then we settle on a form to try to recreate. Or students branch out on their own and use inspiration from the artists to make something different. I see that students in this class are excited about learning from other artists. They feel like they are kind of participating in the global ceramics community through engaging with other people’s works, cultures and histories.
I’m also teaching a drawing class, which is called ‘Sketchbooking’. It is a fun drawing class meant to make people feel comfortable with engaging with their sketchbooks. To help people not fear a blank page. It’s all about having fun and trying lots of things so that we can get into the habit of sketchbooking as a daily practice. ‘Sketchbooking’ is an intergenerational class. So anyone is welcome to take it from young children to adults, teenagers. Friends are welcome. Roommates are welcome. Grandparents and grandchildren. Any experience level. Everyone is absolutely welcome!
I see art as a daily practice as a theme in your teaching, as well as your relationship to engaging with art.
I love using pottery. It totally changes the way I interact with the world. I love being surrounded by handmade things. I’ve been a very functional potter and I’m very interested in craft; the way things are made and the way things work.
Just last night in class we learned from artist Marguerite Wildenhain, she ran an informal school in Guerneville, California, in the 1950s. Her philosophy was to teach young craftspeople to have integrity and to have dedication and to really care about what they’re doing. But also to have a reason for what they’re doing too. To engage philosophically with their work instead of just being technicians, who can technically produce something. She wouldn’t let students keep anything. Students would be throwing forms for two months and they would never fire anything! All the clay was reclaimed. She demanded absolute dedication. And if students weren’t absolutely dedicated, they just wouldn’t continue showing up because it was too hard.
It definitely takes dedication.
Wheel throwing is ridiculous. It’s crazy that we all love to do it! I’ve been working with clay for at least eight years and three years seriously. And I still get cracks in my handles which is so frustrating! But that’s just reality. Something Marguerite Wildenhain said was art is not cumulative. Every day you show up as a potter and you’re starting from scratch. And you just have to pull this desire out of yourself to create something. Then through repetition it becomes less challenging, but you’re still starting from nothing each day. Every single potter has to learn from the very, very beginning.
And that makes it really beautiful to teach because it’s like I’m on that journey with my students. When someone really loves ceramics, they just absolutely give themselves to it. And they work through the frustration and they work through the darkness of being in a learning environment. It’s very human. I think it’s so much more human than any other work that I could be doing. So it feels infinitely valuable.
Richmond Art Center is poised to re-open! We have a new Executive Director, José Rivera, who is eager to lead the center forward. Richmond Art Center’s board plays an important role in supporting and guiding the organization. Different individual board members bring different experience, skills, knowledge and connections to their Board work.
People who live and/or work in Richmond, who are community-minded and thoughtful about how Richmond Art Center could better serve the community in and around Richmond
An accountant/bookkeeper (CPA credential would be great but is not necessary)
A lawyer (for the general knowledge and issue-spotting ability lawyers tend to have)
People who can help us raise money for Richmond Art Center
Leaders with the potential to be board vice president and president in the future
What can you expect?
Board members attend board meetings (currently being held via Zoom), act as ambassadors at select evening and weekend events, give of their expertise and wisdom and make a personal financial contribution to the extent that they can. A Board member’s term is three years, with a two-term limit. Service on the Board of Directors is unpaid.
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Celebrating the Journey | Make Art with José and Lauren | Hello Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez | Classes Starting Soon | From Our Neighbors, For Our Neighbors
Celebrating the Journey
Reception for Art of the African Diaspora
Saturday, March 20, 2021, 3-4:30pm
Join us for a special online event celebrating the artists – past, present and future – who make Art of the African Diaspora possible. This event is presented in partnership with Rhythmix Cultural Works.
Featuring 130 artists, the online exhibition for Art of the African Diaspora 2021 is now open! Special events accompanying the exhibition will be happening throughout March, April and May. Visit richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/aotad2021 to learn more.
Free online guided drawing session with Lauren Ari! With special guest Richmond Art Center’s executive director José Rivera!
Friday, March 5, 12:30-1:30pm
Join Richmond artist Lauren Ari this Friday, March 5 at 12:30pm for a free lunchtime session of guided drawing and relaxation. And meet Richmond Art Center’s new(ish) Executive Director José Rivera! All ages and levels of experience welcome. Simply bring plain white paper and a pen/pencil.
Interview with Teaching Artist Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez
“For a long time I have been pondering how to convey the tremendous loss in the Latino community covid has caused.” – Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez
Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez is a painter and a muralist living in Richmond whose creative practice focuses on social justice issues. We interviewed Rebeca about some of her recent projects, which include a large-scale mural at Pulman Portal Park in Richmond.
Did you know Richmond Public Library has free craft kits for adults? In March they are giving away this cool coloring tote. Call the library 510-620-6561 to make an appointment to pick one up (while supplies last!).
Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez is a painter and a muralist living in Richmond whose creative practice focuses on social justice issues. She is Puerto Rican and often paints traditional subjects seen from the lens of her Latina perspective.
Rebeca chatted with Ilene Conde, Studio Education Manager at RAC, on January 28, 2021.
Can you please start by telling us about your current mixed media series?
For a long time I have been pondering how to convey the tremendous loss in the Latino community covid has caused. I first started thinking about this while working on a mural about the essential workers of the Pullman neighborhood, located at Pulman Portal Park, on the corner of Carlson Boulevard and Ohio Avenue. We had enough funding to make it large enough that people riding by on Bart could see it. The mural shows neighbors leaving for work while it’s still dark. There is a progression from dark to light, with people in uniforms, people with children and Richmond businesses and neighborhood homes in the background. The topic came out of meetings with the Richmond youth, who also painted most of the mural. They really wanted to show reality – so not everyone in the mural is wearing a mask. Some of the neighbors posed.
As the mural was being finished people in the neighborhood stopped to ask questions. They liked how the mural showed resolute people. People who looked strong, not sad. Yet it showed the reality of who is bearing the brunt of this battle against COVID. Towards the end of the mural, in late September 2020, one woman said it was hard for her to look at because it reminded her of all the lives lost.
How did it feel to hear this about your work?
It stayed with me. I started thinking how do you help people reflect on what has been lost. That was a challenge that I posed to myself. And also a way for me to process my own feelings about the pandemic.
Every winter I do printmaking. This winter I’ve been working with a very large gel plate because I don’t have a proper press. The prints from this plate will be used for a series on the subject of the loss of Latinx lives. I want to paint portraits of Latinos who have been lost to COVID over the prints. Certain elements of the prints are independent of each other, and will be incorporated into the portraits as a way for the series to have a common thread.
I’m still working it out. But I think that’s what it’s going to be.
What has it been like for you as an artist during COVID?
I have a studio in north Richmond and I have converted a part of it it into a classroom. I have also spent more time than usual launching a new website, developing a larger social media presence and selling art online.
What has your experience been like teaching online?
Very positive! I am doing more demos and have made changes to my curriculum to make sure my students get quality feedback. My students can access all of my class materials online and they say this helps.
I appreciate the warmth of my students during this very isolating time. I have noticed that my students are now much more interested in each others’ work. I have also appreciated getting invited to see and give suggestions on their home painting setups. I have also given them “tours” of my studio!
What upcoming classes are teaching?
In March I will teach beginner drawing and acrylic painting classes.
Thank you Rebeca!
Registration for Rebeca’s classes is now open.
‘Fundamental Drawing’ runs for eight weeks on Wednesdays, 1pm-3pm, starting March 17. CLICK HERE for more info and to register.
‘Acrylic Techniques For Beginners’ runs for eight weeks on Tuesdays, 10am-12pm, starting March 16.CLICK HERE for more info and to register.
Free online guided drawing session with Lauren Ari!
With special guest Richmond Art Center’s executive director José Rivera!
Friday, March 5, 12:30-1:30pm
Join Richmond artist Lauren Ari this Friday, March 5 at 12:30pm for a free lunchtime session of guided drawing and relaxation. And meet Richmond Art Center’s new(ish) executive director José Rivera! All ages and levels of experience welcome. Simply bring plain white paper and a pen/pencil.
About: Thomas Robert Simpson, actor, director, producer, and writer, is the founder and artistic director of AfroSolo Arts Festival. Since 1991 he has concentrated on presenting Black art and culture through solo performances and the visual and literary arts.
This current visual arts practice focus on honoring Black women. “Project Laura Etta Simpson: In Glory of Black Women” is a photographic expose affirming their humanity. HIs goal is to photograph one thousand women as part of this project.
For the past twenty-four years Simpson has produced the award winning AfroSolo Arts Festival. He has also showcased celebrity artists such as award-winning actor Ruby Dee, comedian and political activist Dick Gregory, beloved teacher, poet and social activist June Jordan, sensational black gospel singer Emmit Powell, along with hundreds of local theatre, dance and visual artist.
Mr. Simpson won a coveted Bay Area Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2006. In 2009 he was awarded a Certificate of Honor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisor. Over the years has received awards from San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Black Brothers Esteem Program, The Reggie Williams Achievement Award, the Oakland Supper Club to name a few.Since 2006 Mr. Simpson has also used AfroSolo’s Community Engagement program to focus on important issues in the black community, such as: health, justice and education.
Artist Statement for ‘Project Laura Etta Simpson: In Glory of Black Women’: Although humanity sprang from the loin of Black women, seldom have they been revered, respected, or rewarded for this gift. Thomas Robert Simpson’s ‘‘Project Laura Etta Simpson: In Glory of Black Women’, named in honor of his mother, is a photographic expose affirming the beauty, grace, humanity, charm, etc. of Black women. Thomas will photograph 1000 Black women, showcasing their diversity, erasing the disrespectful history placed on them and help invigorate the glory and honor our Sisters justly deserve.