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ARTica Studios hosts pottery activities for students and staff in Norris

Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

ARTica Studios offers mini-courses for students to make various ceramic pieces. Students can make anything from practical tableware to conceptual pieces.

From making a fish-shaped bowl to sculpting more than 10 menoras, former Northwestern Transportation Library assistant Joe Ellison has created a variety of ceramic works at ARTica Studios in the underground of Norris University Center over the past 20 years.

ARTica is an art studio in Norris that offers a range of pottery courses and ceramics firing services. While the studio primarily serves NU students and staff, it is also open to the Evanston community.

Ellison said he found the studio through a notice about mini-courses and tried the course. Although he didn’t get any successful pieces on the first try, he persisted and improved over time. He said the studio was one of the best kept secrets on the NU campus.

“It’s a way to get out of my head and just have the time to just see what I can do with clay,” said Ellison. “There is always something new to learn.”

One reason ARTica is so unique is that NU gave studio technician Rachel “Ranch” Ward the freedom to improve the pottery program. Ward began teaching pottery classes at the age of 16 and later attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. They said they fell in love with studio management and enjoy working at ARTica.

At the NU, Ward takes the lead in everything from refreshing the studio aesthetic to creating a more conceptual curriculum. That level of freedom is rare, said Ward.

“I’ve never felt so valued and looked up like this, and that’s one of my favorite things (about ARTica),” said Ward.

ARTica Ceramics offers a variety of courses for all skill levels, Ward said. They teach mini-courses that include one-off introductory courses in which students burn one or two pottery items. They also offer more intense six-week courses that improve students’ sculpting and pottery skills. For advanced members who do not need instruction, the studio offers a membership that includes sound and free burning services.

Weinberg student Ben Magevney took ceramics class in high school and is a member of ARTica. As a computer science major, Magevney says pottery gives him an outlet and a chance to step away from the screen.

Magevney said he values ​​the membership program because it gives him the freedom to do what he wants. He looks forward to doing more engineering work this quarter.

Normally the studio space can hold eight people but due to COVID-19 guidelines the capacity is reduced to six. It is difficult to accommodate the growing interest as the limited space leads to small classes that fill up quickly, Ward said.

Magevney said he can see the passion Ward and other Art Department workers have for their work, and he hopes NU can better serve them.

“The workers at ARTica and the ceramics program director are doing a great job … they just need to get the resources and attention they deserve,” said Magevney. “(NU) doesn’t even offer credit courses, something I’d like to do. You really haven’t dealt much with ceramics. “

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @ joannah_11

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