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Ceramics offered again next fall

Ceramic figures await the kiln in the ceramics studio at Mills College. (Anna Corson)

The Art Department has decided to keep ceramics as a course option for students next fall after the Mills community reacted strongly to the March announcement of the course’s potential removal.

Faculty and staff members in the Art Department felt ceramics was a necessary subject to offer students, according to Mary-Ann Milford, the Art Department head.

“The faculty feel very strongly about this,” Milford said. “We want students to be versed in the basics of all of the arts.

The decision to keep ceramics on the schedule has been welcomed by many students who fought to keep the medium art at Mills.

Sarah Knight, a Studio Art major, started a Facebook group called “Keep Ceramics at Mills!” soon after the Art Department announced its decision to remove ceramics. The group acquired 65 members in a little over a month.

“It was a starting point,” said Knight of the Facebook group. “It was great to see so much support and student involvement.”

For Knight and Milford, ceramics is a fundamental platform for studio art that cannot be excluded from an art major’s studies.

Tools used in the ceramics studio. (Anna Corson)

“Ceramics is one of the oldest art forms in human history,” Knight said. “It’s kind of magical.”

Next year, artist Michael Swaine, a professor at California College of the Arts and member of Futurefarmers, an artist collective that uses art as a form of activism, will be teaching the ceramics class at Mills.

Swaine has a background in ceramics, he studied at Alfred University in New York, but he also uses a variety of mediums in his professional work.

“I have respect for the traditional,” Swaine said, “but I have a wide range of what I can offer students because I also appreciate the unorthodox.”

Swaine will be also be joined by one of his colleagues at Futurefarmers, Amy Franceschini, whom Milford selected as a visiting professor for some of the New Genre classes to be offered in the fall.

The hope is for the two professors to collaborate so students can get a feel for new media while also getting the fundamentals of studio arts, according to Milford.

“We will overlap in some way,” Swaine said about working with Franceschini in the fall.

Knight, who graduates in 2013, was excited about Swaine and Franceschini teaching this fall.

“Both professors seem well educated and know what they are doing,” she said. “There are a lot of ways they can collaborate and incorporate other things into their classes.”

Knight hopes that there will be more student interest in ceramics this fall and sees the medium as an art for all levels.

“You’ll end up creating something you didn’t think you could,” she said

Related article: Art Department replaces ceramics with new genre arts courses