25th Anniversary Interview: Ellen Watters
What's your relationship with NCC?
I’m currently an NCC board member. I’m completing my third term, after having served as Board Chair for three years, the first year of which was during NCC’s leadership transition. I was heavily involved with the executive director search process and the ultimate selection of Sarah Millfelt as director.
Why did you get involved initially?
My involvement dates back to NCC’s early years, with my connection to Andy Boss. Many years ago, when NCC was at its St. Paul location, it had outgrown its space and Andy asked me in my professional capacity to help NCC search for an alternate site. Through that work, I got to know the organization, and I later asked NCC for an auction item for a fundraiser I was involved with. My partner won the silent auction item, a class from NCC, and went on to take many classes at NCC, ultimately changing her life and subsequently my own. I was asked to join the board several years later.
What's the most surprising thing that's happened during your work with NCC?
Very little has surprised me along the way because I know NCC is an exceptionally well-run organization. As a board member, you don’t like surprises! However, I will say that the cost to maintain the building and bring it up to its current health and functionality was surprising. I was involved with the Center’s recent building audit and have since served on the building committee. The building has been very costly and time consuming and there is still more work to be done to make NCC the most sought after place for clay in the country. So, this is a call to support NCC and give often!
What was the most gratifying thing that has happened?
Hearing from leading clay artists from around the world what impact NCC has had on them and on the greater field. There are several artists who have reported that we’ve created an amazing environment to foster the ceramic artist—whether it is through our teaching, residency programs, or publications—we really are doing good things.
Also, it is gratifying to see that we’ve been able to attract and retain really talented staff.
What challenges will NCC face in the future?
Continuing to do the work we do in a funding environment that is becoming increasingly competitive and interested in new and specialized programming. Another challenge is in how we continue to bring the ceramic arts to new audiences, in an increasingly diverse community (both in the Twin Cities and beyond). How do we extend the work we do through outreach, creating ceramic artists and appreciators, when funding continues to decline?