You know them as wise advisors, educators, innovators, clay cultural leaders, and individuals who embody generous spirits. The NCECA Awards and Honors recognize leaders in the field of ceramics for the their impact regionally, lifetime support of others, roles as educators, and outstanding projects. Each year we look for nominations for these recognitions, through an open call on the NCECA website (We’d love you to nominate someone for next year!). This year, the board voted to approve that ALL awardees and honorees receive lifetime memberships and conference passes to acknowledge the significant contributions each has made (those receiving awards in previous years also receive these benefits now).
We hope you will join us when we recognize and celebrate this year’s Awardees and Honorees on
Friday, March 29th, 5:30-7:00pm, Auditorium Main, Minneapolis Convention Center!
For now, please read on to learn more about each award and to be introduced to each of our esteemed recipients.
Our special thanks to this year’s nomination committee for their thoughtful review of all nominees. 2019 Nominations Committee: Anna Calluori Holcombe, Marge Levy, Brandon Schnur, Lauren Sandler, Rhonda Willers (chair), Russell Wrankle
Regional Awards for Excellence
Honoring commitment and outstanding contributions to the ceramic arts or cultural life, the Regional Awards for Excellence annually recognize individuals in the local and extended regions of the conference host city. The recipients are nominated by the on-site conference liaisons and approved by the board of directors.
This year’s recipients are: Lyndel King, Warren MacKenzie (posthumous), and Em Swartout (posthumous).
Lyndel King | As the director and chief curator at the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Museum for 40 years, Lyndel King expanded not only the size of the collection, but also the square footage of the museum, and its national impact. Taking the Weisman museum from its narrow halls on the fourth floor of the Northrup Auditorium to the dynamic stainless steel and brick building designed by Frank Gehry, Lyndel’s leadership allowed the museum to emerge as one of the top teaching university museums in the country.
From the very beginning, Lyndel promoted the need for a world-class university to have a world-class art museum on its campus. She has left a mark on the University of Minnesota’s campus that few other can claim. I got to be part of that process with her, and I can tell you that the Weisman Art Museum exists because of her indomitable spirit, her intelligence, and her perseverance.
-statement by Frank Gehry, architect of the Weisman Art Museum
Photo Credit: Rik Sferra
Warren MacKenzie (Posthumous) | Perhaps no name is more highly and respectfully associated with the American studio pottery movement and its inspirational resonance with the values of the Mingei movement than Warren MacKenzie’s. He did not seek this recognition or leadership; rather, he became it through his passion, dedication, and daily studio practice. Warren’s commitment to the creation of the “honest” pot inspired his students and makers across the region, throughout the United States, and extended to international communities.
In any culture, the needs of the people control the direction of their self-expression. In earlier times, people were directed by their need to find food and to survive. Later they developed belief systems, turning to religion or magic, concerned with gods and goddesses, myths, political power. Artistic expression became a way to support those beliefs, to oppose enemies, to strengthen the culture. I do not believe it is any different in our times.
-Warren MacKenzie, Regis Master lecture, 1997
Photo Credit: Personal Collection of Randy Johnston
Image Description: (Left to Right) Warren MacKenzie, Ken Matzuzaki (of Japan), Phil Rogers (of Wales), and Randy Johnston, 2008 Anagama Firing called “The Sleeping Pot”
Em Swartout (Posthumous) | Clarence Lee “Em” Swartout is known throughout the Twin Cities region and beyond as patriarch of the Continental Clay family. Since its founding as a family owned company, Continental Clay has focused on offering the widest selection of ceramic art and sculpting supplies with over 65,000 square feet dedicated to clay mixing, glaze production, research and development, and a retail store and gallery. Em Swartout never retired; staying involved in the lives of ceramic artists across the county. He loved artists and they loved him. In his effort to help and support others, he was very open about his 34 years of sobriety in AA. Em was comfortable with everyone he met and was willing to help anyone in need. Rambunctious and silly were the sides of Em his clay friends witnessed out in the community. But his warmth, compassion, humor, integrity, and generosity, too, were ever-present.
Having contributed to the professional development of ceramic arts, Honorary Members positively influence and provide opportunities for others to rise. Often recognized for dedicating much of their lives supporting others, each honorary member is also a creative force and leader with their own artistic practice.
This years recipients are: Doug Casebeer, Elaine Olafson Henry, and Winnie Owens-Hart.
Doug Casebeer | Doug Casebeer joined the Anderson Ranch Arts Staff, in 1985, as the Director of the Ceramics and Sculpture program. Since then he has shaped the Ranch into a premier summer workshop destination. Casebeer’s commitment to the idea that workshop instructors are be there as teacher alone and not technician, is a unique approach. It affords the instructors that space and energy necessary to be effective teachers and allows the gifted technical support staff to offer consistent quality to the work being produced during workshops at Anderson Ranch. As the Ranch’s Chair of the Artist in Residency, Casebeer helped to create a welcoming environment that fostered creativity within multiple disciplines. There is no way to adequately summarize how Doug’s Thirty plus years have impacted all of the artists, teachers, students, staff and the community of Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Suffice it to say that his legacy will always be felt on the Ranch grounds.
In the fall of 2018, Doug embarked on a new chapter of teaching and service. He will take his knowledge, enthusiasm, and expertise in kiln construction to another institution and group of students fortunate to have him. He is the newest Artist in Residence at the Oklahoma University School of Visual Arts. It should come as no surprise that in the short time he has been at OU School of Visual Arts he has already built a new version of the “little vic” soda kiln for the university.
Casebeer’s philosophic creativity has fueled his fervor as a kind of global “ambassador of peace” for well over three decades. Through workshops and lectures, he believes in bringing grace and beauty into people’s lives through the art experience. His role as United Nations Production Advisor and Ceramics Consultant reads like that of a US Secretary of State, with travels to Washington DC, Taiwan, Mexico, Vienna, Japan, Chile, Geneva, and Nepal, among other destinations.
– Victoria Woodward Harvey, Ceramics Monthly, January 2016
Elaine Olafson Henry | Elaine Olafson Henry is a ceramic artist, curator, writer, and local volunteer. She is the former Editor and Publisher of the international ceramics journals Ceramics Art & Perception and Ceramics TECHNICAL. he earned a BFA from the University of Wyoming and an MFA from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and is now pursuing an MA in English at the University of Wyoming. She taught at Emporia State University in Kansas from 1996-2007 where she served as Chair of the Department of Art from 2000-2007. Henry served as the President of the International Ceramics Magazine Editors Association (ICMEA) 2014-2016 and the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) 2002-2004. She is currently a Fellow of that organization and a Lifetime Member of ICMEA. Her work is internationally published, exhibited, and collected. Henry has lectured, demonstrated and taken part in residences in more than 10 countries, including: Italy, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Latvia, China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, and the U.S. She is an elected member of the International Academy of Ceramics. Through her work as educator, editor, leader, and artist, Elaine has elevate the practice of countless artists, both nationally and internationally.
Elaine’s efforts have always been about raising the bar in the field, whether in criticism, publication, exhibitions, or professionalism, and she has done this by example. Henry earned the BFA and MFA degrees in art. Ever open to expanding her knowledge and experience, she is currently working toward and MA in English at the University of Wyoming. She is writing her thesis on ‘Comparative Rhetorical Analysis of Contemporary Art Criticism and Contemporary Ceramics Criticism,’ in an effort to continue to raise the bar by encouraging and contributing to the critical discourse in the field.
– Mary Jane Edwards, Executive Director, Jentel Foundation
Winnie Owens-Hart | From an early age, Winnie Owens-Hart’s parents stressed the value of education above all else, bestowing her with the sense that she could begin to discover worlds within the pages of books. Today she is recognized as one of the ceramic art community’s most progressively expansive polymaths… educator, artist, filmmaker, author, and critical thinker in matters of clay, art and culture.
She taught at Howard University for more than 37 years and has conducted research, exhibited, and presented lectures internationally. Her career in ceramics began very early in life and has continued professionally since the 1970s. She opened her first studio in 1972 in Alexandria, Virginia. As a young art student, she imagined what pot-making and art must be like in Africa and then pursued that vision throughout undergraduate school. While teaching crafts in a Philadelphia public school, she discovered a film that demonstrated some African women hand-building a huge pot. She realized her dream of studying women’s traditional pottery techniques and culture in 1977, when she was selected to represent the United States and exhibit her ceramic work at FESTAC in Lagos, Nigeria.
After receiving a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts she returned that summer to work in the village. Eventually she took a job with the federal government of Nigeria teaching ceramics at a nearby university to enable her to continue apprenticing traditional pottery, and was eventually accepted as part of the community’s pottery culture. For the past 10-years she has worked with women in a pottery village in Ghana. As both a published author and curator, Owens-Hart has curated exhibitions primarily focused on contemporary African American artists and has also produced documentary films, including Style & Technique-Four Pottery Villages and The Traditional Potters of Ghana-The Women of Kuli. Over more than four decades, her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally with work in the collections of the Smithsonian, Kohler, universities, and private collections.
Excellence in Teaching Award
Each of us has a teacher, mentor, someone who has opened our thinking and vision of ourselves. These educators, both formal and informal, often do not realize their full impact. Excellence in Teaching awardees have a career dedicated to the practice of teaching, demonstrated excellence in their own creative work and have highly visible former students in the field. They are beloved, celebrated, and appreciated by their former students and colleagues.
This year’s recipients are: Lenny Dowhie and Louis B. Marak.
Lenny Dowhie | Lenny Dowhie taught for 33 years at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville (USIE). His tenure brought stability to their program that has become more rare in university ceramics programs. Lenny passed along his experiences as an international artist to his students. His research afforded them an exciting, current and global view of the field. Recognized for his dedication, Lenny received the Evansville Mayor’s Arts Awards and the Arts Council of South West Indiana Art Educator of the Year Award. Along with his day job at USIE, Lenny has presented over 80 workshops, demonstrations, lectures and exchanges worldwide. Lenny’s work has been shown in over 100 exhibitions and included in important books and journals in the field.
Professionally, his activities have had national impact. He was a Founding Partner of Expressions of Culture, Inc., producers of the renowned Chicago International Exposition of Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) Chicago, NYC, Coral Gables and Santa Fe. He continues his involvement in this arena as a Partner in Expo Chicago, the Art Fair Company, Chicago, Illinois, since 2011.
Professor Dowhie set a great example for perseverance, problem solving, and above all—making Art. His usual greeting to his students before class was, “Are you making Art today?” Just that simple phrase set the tone for the class—we were challenged to make Art every day. His class was student led—encouraging the senior students to mentor and teach the younger students, which built everyone’s confidence.
– Gregory A. Byard, former MFA student
Louis B. Marak | Louis Marak opens doors, and if you had the courage to walk through the threshold, he would help you reach your goals. I saw him do this for me and countless other students during my time at the Humboldt State University ceramics lab. He was a generous and supportive mentor to countless students. Lou created a challenging and creative environment at HSU for nearly 40 years, making exceptional impacts on his students and influencing a diverse field of ceramic artists including Michael Lucero, John Roloff, Skuja Braden, Ian McDonald, Ionna Nova Frisby, Brian Benfer, Nate Betschart, Jeff Irwin, Eva Champagne, Stuart Asprey, Brian Gillis, Colleen Sidey, Vince Pitelka, and Bryan Czibesz.
His unique combination of casual delivery, pinpoint wit, serious criticism and self-deprecating humor created an interest and passion in his students. He would continue to solidify and support his students at HSU by quietly serving as an invaluable role model for how maintain rigorous teaching and art practices with lasting impacts. He treated students as individuals and challenged each one of us to find our voice, discover our niche within the ceramic world, and to strive to be the best artist in the room. Lou had an uncanny ability to breed confidence and empowerment in students without knowing it. He confronted each student with what we thought we knew about intent, content and process and then magically draw new work from us, leaving us convinced we figured it all out on our own. The impacts Lou has made through his teaching have been profound and continue to resonate, we owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to one person who changed so many people’s lives. (Written by Stuart Asprey)
Outstanding Achievement Award
Recognizing a completed singular project that has contributed to the field of ceramics, the Outstanding Achievement Award honors contemporary artists, educators, writers, and other contributors. Their work is consider above and beyond what is typically within the scope of their professions.
This year’s recipient is: Richard “Dick” Wukich.
Richard “Dick” Wukich | Richard “Dick” Wukich’s love of art began during his high school studies in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Over the years since then, he has transformed his love of making and teaching pottery into a multifaceted movement that supports those in need locally and globally. Wukich went on to study art at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania where he earned a bachelor of science in art education. Subsequently, he earned a master of fine arts degree from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred where he worked with NCECA founder Ted Randall, Daniel Rhodes, and master teacher and potter Val Cushing. Later, he taught high school for a year before accepting a teaching position at Slippery Rock University where he worked for 43 years, until retiring in 2011.
Wukich remembers Cushing’s influence on his work and life through support of NCECA conference scholarships to regional high school students and educators in his mentor’s memory. “Val took me to the very first NCECA conference in East Lansing, Michigan in 1967. My support of this scholarship is a way of paying forward his generosity as a teacher and the influence of his expansive vision on my life,” Another way that Wukich has committed to the sustainability of ceramic art in education is through support of educator initiatives through the National K-12 Ceramics Exhibition Foundation.
Wukich is also the founder of Potters Water Action Group, which has chapters all over the world dedicated to working on water quality issues. As an international coordinator for the initiative, Wukich has worked to set up production studios across the globe in countries such as Haiti, Nigeria and Nepal. Potters Water Action Group strives to provide safe drinking water through education, research, development, and the dissemination of ceramic water filters.