|From left, Wayne Higby, director and curator, Alfred Ceramic Art Museum; AU Trustee and museum benefactor Marlin Miller and wife Ginger Miller; AU President Mark Zupan|
With nearly 8,000 ceramic objects in its collection, including an outstanding collection of graduate thesis work by Alfred University-educated ceramic artists, the museum joins a network of western New York art institutions that includes Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, Buffalo’s Burchfield Penney Art Center, The Corning Museum of Glass and Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art.
“The mission of the museum has to be educational,” said Director and Curator Wayne Higby Friday. “But what’s significant is how ceramics has a footprint in all areas of education – business, history, culture. So for me the mission is also about how ceramics is a touchstone for all elements of the mind.”
The museum opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by AU President Mark Zupan and AU Trustee Marlin Miller, whose financial support made the project possible after years of discussion and planning on the AU campus.
It was in 1991 – nearly 90 years after Binns assembled the university’s first collection of ceramic art – that the AU Board of Trustees formally established the Museum of Ceramic Art at Alfred. The name changed to the International Museum of Ceramic Art, then The Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University.
In 2014, with Miller’s support, construction of the new building began under the architectural supervision of Kallman, McKinnell and Wood of Boston. The Board of Trustees formally named the new building The Alfred Ceramic Art Museum in 2015.
Meeting with Miller several hours before the opening, Higby noted the museum collection includes ceramic art from Binns’s original collection, plus works by U.S. and international ceramic artists, many trained at Alfred University. “These folks have changed the face of ceramic art in the 21st century,” Higby said. “They represent the arc and evolution of ceramic art – all of these people who have become major names, and teachers, all across America.”
Miller said his interest in supporting the development of a ceramic art museum emerged in part from his business trips as co-founder of Arrow International and co-founder and director of Norwich Ventures. “I could be in any country in the world, and people practicing ceramic art knew all about Alfred,” he said. “We really just needed a place where we could put this collection in the public eye.”
Friday’s ribbon cutting was followed by a reception and the formal opening of the museum to the public. The museum will be open from 10am to 5pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 10am to 7pm Thursdays; and 10am to 4pm Saturdays and Sundays.