Friday, October 5, 2012

Tate Rich Talks About Ceramics and Community Art

Next week is another big week for the Northland arts scene. On October 8-10 there will be the three day CREATIVE FLOW ~ CREATIVE ONENESS Fine Arts Festival at Minnesota Community College Ruttgers Bay Lake Lodge in Deerwood, MN (between Aitkin and Brainerd.) The event will feature art making, labyrinth exercises, lectures on building community around creativity, and workshops  with Tate Rich, artist and instructor at Cochise College in Douglas, AZ and Doug Padilla, a self-taught visionary artist of Norwegian/Mexican/cowboy roots living in the wilds of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Then on Thursday and Friday here in the Twin Ports, there will be the two-night Gallery Progressive featuring as many as twenty galleries and dozens of artists. Much more will be said, but you can start by visiting the Twin Ports Gallery Progressive Facebook Page.

Doug Padilla and Tate Rich will be at LSC this coming week.
Overlapping both events, on October 10 and 11, Tate Rich will also be here in Duluth at Lake Superior College conducting demonstrations and having an Open Pit Firing Wednesday evening from 5 - 9. Pit Firing is a ceramic finishing technique. Thursday Oct. 11 11:30-1:50 Rich will conduct ceramic demonstrations at the school's ceramics room in LSC's Art Building.

Earlier this week I made contact with Tate to learn more about his work in ceramics.

EN: Briefly, where did you grow up and what life lessons have you carried with you from that experience?

TR: I grew up in Saint Cloud, MN. Often we had fires every night to stay warm. From that ancient tradition of sitting around a fire [I experienced] the basics of humanism, to gather, eat, sing, tell stories, and give thanks. I still really enjoy fire, and work in clay so I can be close to it. The one event that I spend most of my time organizing is the Pit-fire event. This event is celebration of the arts around a monstrous fire. Over 1000 clay objects are vitrified under the bonfire.

EN: Currently you are an instructor at Cochise College. How did this life direction come about?

TR: Cochise College is in Southern AZ outside of a artistic mountain border town called Bisbee. Do some research about the funk and magic of this place. Fate brought me to this little college in the desert. I firmly believe this is where I am supposed to be. I was teaching as an adjunct faculty member at 4 colleges and universities in SoCal for for 7 years before I accepted this job at Cochise College. Working adjunct is hard work because one has to teach double or triple loads to make the same money as a full-timer, but without any benefits. I was teaching at Goldenwest college in Huntington beach, Saddleback college in Mission Viejo, Citrus College is Glendora, and Cal State University in Fullerton. I was literally running a majority of all 4 programs and was burnt out. I decided to apply for a full time position and by law, any full time position has to be advetised. That semester there were 3 colleges hiring around the U.S. I applied here and was offered a position, I accepteed, then was offered a follow up intereview at another college but declined as I already accepted this position at Cochise.

EN: What is it about doing community art that gets you jazzed?

TR: Its advocacy for creativity. Recently I just finished a large-scale sculpture with the welding department and the Friends of the Warren Ballpark. It's a huge 24 foot sculpture of 3 bats leaning on each other. It was in the local paper last week. We need more art in the community. I am the chair of the Bisbee Arts Commission, through the city of Bisbee. We do many community activities and our mission is to support the arts and artists in our town.

EN: How did you become interested in and involved with making things in clay?

TR: Clay is an amazing material and was turned on to it at a young age. In high school and college I had some great instructors that help guide me in this material. Perhaps, this is why I teach also… Anyhow, clay is complex and takes much patience. I often find my self working/meditating with clay for many of hours in the studio without realizing time. I can easily pass 8 hours with working with the process. I am also very interested in fire and this is an important part of working with clay.

EN: How did you come to be giving demonstrations and speaking at Lake Superior College?

Tanya saw a presentation of mine at this last year's NCECA conference in Seattle. I presented a documentary of the Pit-fire festival that I put on in SoAZ. She then asked if I would be willing to present and demonstrate at Creative Flow. I am honored and excited to be a part of this upcoming conference. It will be a great opportunity to connect with my home state of Minnesota and to collaborate with some wonderful people. I hope to bring some positive energy to the event.

You can learn more about pit firing by watching these videos:
2009 Cochise College Pit-Fire Documentary
2010 Cochise College Pit-Fire Documentary

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