Dear NCECA Friends,

I just wanted to reach out to you briefly and write a few words about this years Keynote speaker Liz Lerman. For all of us involved in the world of the ceramic arts and education we know how seminal the “Critique” is to learning. Perhaps no one has written more insightfully about this process than Liz Lerman.

Liz Lerman is a performer, teacher, speaker and consultant. In 2002  Lerman was recognized with a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship.

I just got off the phone with Liz this morning after having a conversation about her NCECA Keynote address. For anyone interested in the “art of learning” you won’t want to miss her talk!

Chris Staley


*****Interjection by Cindy Bracker******

Hello from me too….and please pardon this appropriation of Chris’s Post.  My excitement is simply bubbling over and I could not resist…I just had to jump in and add a few things myself.  I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to hear that our Keynote Speaker for this 50th anniversary conference would be Liz Lerman.  As many of you have managed to find out, my primary passion is performance…I refer to it as “4-D art.”   Liz Lerman is a well-known choreographer and dancer, back to her days as a go-go dancer and moving forward through her creation of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and beyond.  I was speechless when I heard she is coming to our conference.  (yes, really…speechless…)

The topic of her speech, as well as her methods and her techniques, though, reach far beyond the realm of the performing arts.  In this year’s keynote, we all will be not just listening to, but taking part in a thoughtful process regarding the art of critical feedback.   I was fortunate enough to be able to join a special online preview session with Lerman and about 20 NCECA members.  We explored questions related to the openness to criticism.  Think for a moment about from whom you feel open to accepting critique. Often the response is “from someone who has my best interest at heart” or “someone I trust” “someone who will be honest, and not try to inflate me.”

Lerman mentioned that as a classically trained dancer, much of her early days were about learning the steps, but dance is not about the steps, it’s about using the steps to be able to have a vocabulary that we can use to say something, and critical response process is a lot like that….you have to learn the steps so that you know how to say what needs to be said.

We did a sample session with NCECA Past President and installation artist, Patsy Cox, who did a brilliant and authentic job of presenting her own artwork for all of us to respond to.  The process consists of three steps.  In the first, the responder reflects on the artwork and makes statements of observation.  (Think about answering the question “what is memorable”.)  In the next step, the artist asks questions of the responder.  This was so interesting to me, because this has not been a part of any critiques I have observed or taken part in, at least not in such a central way.  In the final step, the responder has the opportunity to offer an opinion on the work, first asking if the artist wishes to hear it.

The whole experience, even merely participating in it as sort of a test run, was fascinating, and I really look forward to seeing how this plays out at our opening ceremonies.  I love how it touches on the conference theme of mentorship, as it is our mentors who are often are most important critics.  I am VERY excited by the element of participation, and I think it’s going to be an incredible, unique and forward-thinking way for us to kick off our conference.

I am including a bit of a taster for those of you reading this article.  This is a session of a Critical Response Process workshop she presented in Scotland: