Friday, May 20, 2016

Alfred Ceramic Art Museum finally finds a home at Alfred University

The Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, an idea born more than 30 years ago, finally found a permanent home on the Alfred University campus with the dedication of a new museum building. On hand for the dedication were, from left, Wayne Higby, internationally renowned ceramic artist and professor who is now the museum director; Ginger and Marlin Miller, whose generosity made the museum possible; Les Gelber, chairman of the Alfred University Board of Trustees, and Charles M. Edmondson, Alfred University president. 

It was 30 years ago when the late Robert Turner, a professor emeritus of ceramic art, observed that “Alfred University really should have a museum of ceramic art.”
He made the comment to Marlin Miller, a 1954 alumnus of Alfred University who has served on the Board of Trustees since 1972 and is a chairman emeritus. Miller still recalls the conversation; it was behind his decision to make a gift to the University to construct the museum, which was dedicated during the Board of Trustees’ May meeting on campus.
“We have been working toward this moment for a long time,” said Wayne Higby, the director of what is now known as the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, at the dedication ceremony in the gallery of the new building.
In reality the journey that led to the dedication of the Museum began 116 years ago, when the New York State School of Clayworking at Alfred University was established by the New York State Legislature, said Higby. The founding director, Charles Fergus Binns, created a school where both “science and art found a home.” It was Binns who in 1903 created what he called the “study collection,” pieces of ceramic art the students could examine and learn from. From that nucleus grew the Museum’s collection of more than 8,000 pieces.
The new Museum will be a “beacon, reaching out to the local and regional community and to the national and international communities that sense with us a deep understanding that ceramic art houses the universal creative spirit of all humankind.” Higby said. “Although the collecting and research aspect of the Museum is devoted to Ceramic Art, the exhibition policy is such that the Museum is open to the consideration of works and scholarship in all media.”
Miller recalled that early in his career as a ceramic engineer, he and his first wife, the late Marcianne Mapel Miller, an AU alumna who earned a degree in ceramic art, traveled widely throughout Europe. “Every place we went, we experienced ceramics by visiting galleries and factories,” and every place they went they found people who said, “We know Alfred.” In later travels to China, Japan and other countries, they again found that “anywhere in the world” the name of Alfred University was synonymous with ceramic art.
Having a Museum that will not only exhibit ceramic art, but provide a “really solid teaching center” will “bring many more people to Alfred,” Miller said. He sees the Museum as something that will “benefit the entire University.”
“My life would not have been as rich as it has been had I not had the opportunity to be exposed to one of the best art schools in the country” at Alfred, said Miller.
The process of creating ceramic art is “the best metaphor” for an Alfred University education, said President Charles M. Edmondson. “Clay is not rare – it’s a common material – but with creativity and the strategic application of heat, we are able to turn it into something beautiful and inspiring.
“Many of us are like that clay, but through the process of higher education we have a chance to fulfill our dreams,” said Edmondson.