Posted by Russell Wrankle
My first memorable NCECA was the 1995 Minneapolis, Minnesota conference. This was before cell phones, and Mark Zuckerberg was 10 years old and he hadn’t yet revolutionized the way we communicate, and galleries were the only game in town. Minneapolis was a vessel-heavy NCECA with more galleries with great work than one could possibly take in. I was an undergraduate student at the time and I remember being fully inspired by all the vessels and atmospheric fired ceramics. Things were happening in ceramics in the northern reaches of the Midwestern United States. This was an era when the Mingeisota school in American ceramics evolved out of the impactful work of Warren Mackenzie, Linda Christianson, and Jeff Oestreich among others. Their influences on me were potent, and it was during this NCECA conference that I committed myself to making pottery.
My next memorable NCECA conference was 2004 in Indianapolis, Indiana. That was the conference where I was one of the emerging artists. I don’t remember much due to the level of stress and fear that I felt being on stage in front of my peers. I had since gone to graduate school at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, and my thesis focused on sculptural vessels. My presentation was well received and Mark Zuckerberg was 18 years old.
In 2002 Art Basel, a premier art fair in Europe since 1970, made its debut in Miami Beach, Florida. Just two years later in 2004, Facebook was launched, followed in 2010 by Instagram’s arrival. This brief, recent time period parallels the proliferation of art fairs around the world: there were 68 art fairs in 2005 and 189 in 2011. Shifts were taking place both in how we communicate and how art and artists reach their markets.
In 2009, Red Lodge Clay Center participated in the Gallery Expo at the Phoenix / Tempe NCECA conference, and I felt honored that my work was featured there along with many other artists whose work inspires me. Galleries were still the predominant way for artists to gain exposure and sell work. In 2009, I posted my first Facebook image after Ben Ahlvers told me to check out this thing called social media. The gallery as the principal gatekeeper was quickly changing with the advent of social media.
While social media changed the landscape, and in my view for the better, we still need each other; we’re all in this together, artists, galleries and patrons. We are an interconnected ecosystem. While social media has changed how art is viewed and purchased, social media alone doesn’t have the synergistic energy of another person or entity advocating for the artist. Relationships are built on trust and when an artist and a gallery come together with similar values, both benefit. The Gallery Expo at the Portland conference is a perfect opportunity for galleries to showcase this synergistic relationship, at a professional level, between artists and patrons and to educate future artists and makers of the benefits of gallery representation.
It’s been my association with galleries that has raised my status and legitimacy as an artist and maker. I use social media to promote and sometimes sell my work, but it’s more often my relationship with a prominent gallery that closes the deal. My trusted gallery adds credibility to my work, and because of my gallery, my work has found a home in many significant art collections.
I’m thrilled to be a part of NCECA and pleased that my role is to facilitate the Gallery Expo. It’s my hope that galleries will continue to add to the commercial and educational component of NCECA, and that artists can find the gallery that best suits their work and values. My association with galleries has only improved my exposure to a wider audience and I look forward to helping NCECA and the Gallery Expo evolve to embrace the ever-changing world of ceramic art collecting and advocacy.
As Gallery Expo has become a more sought after avenue to exhibit work during the NCECA conference, we will sometimes face very difficult decisions about which venues to include. I am thrilled that Ben Ahlvers of the Lawrence Art Center and NCECA Fellow Susan Harris will work with me to identify a solid and complementary collection of exhibitors representing work that is compelling and varied. I consider them a dream team in their experience, depth of knowledge, and breadth of understanding about what is happening in contemporary ceramic art.
The deadline for venues that wish to be part of NCECA’s 2017 Gallery Expo in Portland, Oregon is Wednesday, June 20, 2016. Visit http://nceca.net/nceca-calls-and-exhibitions/gallery-expo-call/ to learn more about submitting a proposal.