To those of you who followed this column of mine last year, welcome back, and a hearty hello to new followers as well.  I have a bunch of these little insider articles planned between now and the conference.  Hopefully, this will enable you to take the fullest advantage possible of the conference.  I WELCOME questions from the membership, so if something is on your mind, throw it at me.  I’ll answer it right here.  In fact, today’s article comes directly from the Clayart List-serve.  You may already be aware the early bird registration opened before the programming information was released.  For folks who have been attending for years, the typical “routine” of the conference is engrained into our being, so decisions can easily be made without seeing all the details.

BUT, for prospective new attendees, or even those who have only been a few times, or have had a gap in their attendance, this can be mind-boggling…

when should i fly in/out?

what days should I attend?

full pass or day pass?

So here’s a the rundown of roughly what to expect each day of the conference.  For those of you that consider yourself “old pros”, I’m highlighting in RED things that are different than what you have seen in the past:

Saturday – Monday – Pre-conference events in and around the host city at arts centers, universities, and other clay-related businesses (sometimes these start even a whole week before the conference)

Tuesday day time – A lot of veteran conference goers will use the time on Tuesday morning to go out on their own to look at shows and visit galleries & museums.  Generally most of the shows are even up by Monday morning, and these pre-conference days can be a great time to look at art with fewer crowds.  Just to be on the safe side, you should verify hours of galleries you most want to see.


Gallery Expo reception, including projects space, Emerging Artists, and 8 amazing galleries from across the country

Tuesday Evening – The Gallery Expo Opening Reception in the convention center, usually at 6:30-8:00, generally there’s a cash bar, great art to look at and buy and the first opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.  Usually this is followed up by a late dinner and then socializing in the Hotel Lobby/bar


Potters like Jeff Blandford demonstrate throughout the day in the Resource Hall

Wednesday day time– The Resource Hall is open for you to come visit with manufacturers, tool makers, publishers, suppliers, colleges, universities, arts centers, non-profit organizations, galleries and more.  Many of the Expo Galleries bring artists to give short, informative talks about their work.  There are also a number of bus tours and shuttles that will take you out to visit the many shows and exhibitions in the surrounding community.  In the mid to late afternoon, there will be an “NCECA for First Timers” session, where you can meet other new attendees with whom you can enjoy the conference!  You don’t have to be a first timer to attend, and hecklers are welcome.  This is really a great place to get to know other people who are new to the conference…There’s strength in numbers, and you might just fine your annual NCECA partner-in-crime! Immediately following that session will be breakout sessions that have in the past been known as NCECA Connections and Topical Discussions.  These are informal groups centered around a common topic or subgroup of conference goers.  This is a change from previous years.  Topical Discussions used to be on Thursday evening and Connections on Friday evening.  It was suggested that both should be moved to the beginning of the conference so that people with similar interests could meet and navigate the programming together.  

Wednesday Evening – The official opening ceremonies of the conference includes a welcome from the president, a few notes from other NCECA Board members, and then our Executive Director will welcome the Keynote Speaker.  The Keynote is usually someone from outside the field of Ceramics.  It is the board’s goal to select someone that will inspire us or motivate us in different ways.  Following the Keynote, there is a short break before the Randall Session.  If you don’t know what that is, be sure to watch the blog for more explanation to come along with an announcement of this year’s special guest, but traditionally, the Randall Session is not to be missed!  There’s also usually a cash bar just outside the general session room.  After the Randall Session, most conference goers enjoy conversations and libations in the Hotel Lobby or nearby hotspots in the city.

Deb Chronister leads Yoga

Deb Chronister leads Yoga

Thursday morning – Each year, Deb Chronister leads an incredible Yoga Session at 7am.  Well, I’m told it’s incredible.  I haven’t yet made it to one, but each year it is my goal to wake up in time for Yoga.  Maybe this will be my year…who wants to place bets?  After Yoga, come join the board in an exciting membership meeting and hear all about what we do the other 360 days of the year that we aren’t at the annual conference!


The Process room is always packed

Thursday daytime – MULTIPLE options for programming including simultaneous demonstrations on a big stage – morning session from 9-12 and afternoon session with different artists from 1-4.  There’s also the process room which will have 7 artists presenting 30 minutes demos of a specific process specific to their work.  Then there will be two separate rooms filled with lectures, co-lectures, & panel presentations, plus there’s a K-12 focused room, a reading room for reviewing new books (new last year), a room of student-led presentations, a room of non-traditional educational programming, and some short-format programming (NCECA Blinc 20:20) too.    Plus the Resource Hall will also be open for your perusal. And one more thing, but it’s still in the works, so stay’s also brand new and sure to be popular!  One presentation you will definitely want to take note of is the Past Masters Session.  We moved this important and powerful session to the end of the day so that, if necessary, its time can be extended, ensuring that all of our mentors can be appropriately memorialized & celebrated.

2015 Biennial install view

NCECA Exhibitions offer a cross section of contemporary work in Ceramics

Thursday Night – This is all about the shows and galleries.  NCECA’s Invitational or Biennial will have its opening (these shows alternate years.  2016 is an Invitational year), the National Student Juried Show will also have its opening, and usually any gallery within a 5 mile radius of those shows will also have opening receptions.  (And in Kansas City’s case, there are a LOT!  ALSO specific to Kansas City will be the opening of the Across the Table Across the Land exhibition, as well as the Honors & Fellows show.  These are shows specific to the 50th anniversary of our organization.) Of course, the evening is usually capped by conversations in the Lobby…. 🙂

Friday morning – Another Yoga session…at 7am…maybe you’ll see me there?  Cross your fingers for me. (and please bring coffee)  ALSO on Friday morning….actually more like Friday during the wee hours, the line for the cup sale will begin to form.  It opens at 8am, and it is ALWAYS packed, and the cups ALWAYS sell out.  ALL NCECA members are encouraged to donate a cup (you can do this anytime prior to 8am Friday…well, any reasonable hour of the day…Dick Wehrs has to sleep SOMETIME).  Each year the total donations due to the cup sale has increased.  I expect Kansas City to BLOW THE ROOF OFF!!!!  This is what happened last year:

Friday daytime – More of the big simultaneous demonstrations, 7 more presenters in the process room, a whole new slate of presenters, and of course the Resource Hall to visit and finish your conference shopping and information-gathering.  At the end of the day, you won’t want to miss the NCECA awards.  This is another piece of programming that we have moved to a time slot all its own, so you can enjoy your entire day, then at 5:15, you can help us honor some of the most exceptional people in our field.  It’s like the Oscars of Ceramics, and you won’t be missing out on anything else to be there.  Immediately following the awards, be sure to stay for the second annual “Film Night at NCECA”.  Two red-carpet events back to back (This is a change from last year when it was on Thursday night).  And what’s a red carpet event without an after-party?

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The Phantastics are…well, PHANTASTIC!

Friday night is always the legendary NCECA Dance.  Way back in the day, Paul Soldner used to streak the dance….we heard a rumour that This year, Paul’s spirit just may be living on this year……you’ll have to show up to find out, and while you’re there, you’ll get to enjoy an amazing Kansas City favourite, the Phantastics!  They will be rocking the house until 1am.  And if you still have some energy after that, there are always new friends to get to know hanging around the lobby.  Just walk up and introduce yourself to someone.  We’re all a big family, especially by this point in the conference!

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You never know what history might be made at the Emerging Artists presentation.

Saturday – Our final conference day starts a bit later at 9am with the Emerging Artists presentation.  Supplanted in the middle of that will be the enticing preview of our next conference (in the current case, PORTLAND!)  Then, following a brief break, we will be treated to the closing lecture, followed by the exciting conclusion of our membership meeting where the proceeds from the Cup Sale are announced, as well as cups of merit, NSJE awards, and other recognitions.  Election results are also announced!  (Let me take this as a FIRST opportunity to tell you how important it is that you vote in the board elections!)  After the members meeting is adjourned, we begin an open board meeting.  All members are welcome to come to this meeting and speak directly to the board about their thoughts on the conference, and/or the organization.  In the past, we’ve heard a lot of really great things here that have led to quite a few improvements!  Let us hear from you!(Of course, you can also ALWAYS send an email to

Saturday afternoon and Sunday – There are also sometimes POST conference events, and lots of galleries that keep extended hours during NCECA, especially for people that stick around afterwards.  Be sure to keep an eye on the blog for all the “dirt” on activities you might want to take advantage of after the conference (and before!)

Got a question?  comment below…I’ll answer it!  or email me directly!