25th Anniversary Interview: Mary K Baumann

What is your relationship with NCC?
As a member of the NCC board, I love my relationship. NCC not only introduces world-class ceramics to Minnesota, the center fosters local ceramic activity. It’s an incredible collaborative and accessible hub for potters and collectors to come together and assist each other. The staff and the board are not only passionate and committed, they are a family of warm, caring, and loving people.

Having spent most of my career in New York City, I never sensed this welcoming attitude in other arts organizations. A snobby persona often prevailed. There is no arrogance at the NCC.

I hear time and again from people outside of the Twin Cities that our metro area is uniquely collaborative among creatives, especially the potters.

Why did you get involved initially?
I’m originally from Minnesota, but my husband, Will, and I lived for over 30 years in New York. A good friend from there told us about NCC. We visited during a Minneapolis trip and were blown away. For over 10 years, on every Minnesota visit, NCC was on our itinerary. As a result of those visits, we learned that Minnesota was this clay mecca, which was a determining factor in us eventually moving to Minneapolis.

What was the most surprising thing that happened during your time with NCC?
Every time I walk into the Clay Center, I see a piece of pottery that takes my breath away; it is a constant surprise. But the biggest surprise is how supportive the people who live here are of NCC—buying pottery and incorporating ceramics into their lives. Rather than heading to the usual mass market stores to buy a cup or to look for a gift, NCC is often the first stop. The handmade object is treasured here.

What was the most gratifying thing about your NCC experience?
It is really special to be able to meet the ceramists and be able to talk with them about their philosophies and techniques. To know the person who made something that you have in your home or gave as a gift, makes life more interesting. NCC makes that possible through its education programs, exhibition openings, and through their American Pottery Festival.

Some of NCC’s makers are real heroes on the international scene. When Will and I were invited to Japan on an educational event sponsored by Stanford University, we brought works by NCC potters to present to our hosts. The Minnesota potters are really respected in Japan, so our gifts were a big hit.