Announcing the Recipients of the 2019 McKnight Artist Fellowship and Residency for Ceramic Artists Award

Northern Clay Center is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 McKnight Artist Fellowships: Kelly Connole (Northfield, MN) and Guillermo Guardia (Saint Paul, MN). Connole investigates memories, raw instinct, and elements of the natural world to create work that celebrates the tactile temperament of clay and connection to other beings. Guardia explores political and social issues relevant to his personal experiences, informed by the events in his life and the places he has lived.

Kelly Connole
Murder No. 2, 2019,
clay, wood, thread,
installation size 28’ x 9’ x 12’ 

Guillermo Guardia
Mazinger GG
(Meaning of Home series), 2019,
ceramic, cone 4, porcelain,
underglazes, clear glaze,
24” x 11” x 15"

The recipients of the 2020 McKnight Artist Residency are: Pattie Chalmers (Carbonale, IL) is inherently an explainer and a storyteller and through her work she attempts to map her experiences; Rebecca Chappell (Philadelphia, PA) makes objects that require subtle, playful interactions, looking to find breath within a tight, enclosed space; Jin Cho (Fort Collins, CO) creates narratives that portray human nature and complicated interactions with society; and Marcelino Puig Pastrana (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) brings forth animated forms resonant with memories and feelings about to become manifest or in the process of dissolving back into primordial matter. These four artists will each be in residence at Northern Clay Center for three consecutive months in 2020.

Pattie Chalmers
Every Day I Think of You
(Detail of 365 objects), 2018,
terra cotta, copper, fiber,
size variable

Rebecca Chappell
Lemon Candleholder for the Wall,
2019, terra cotta, cone 03, gold luster,
12” x 12” x 6"
Jin Cho
We Hold Each Other (Series), 2019, stoneware, 27” x 20” x 20" 
Marcelino Puig Pastrana,
VII Sobre los destrozos se alza
profética una
voz (VII Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice)
(Detail), 2017, stoneware with
oxidesand engobes, fired to cone 3,
12” x 12” x 2.75"  

The jurors – Dr. Sharif Bey, Linda Lighton, and Dr. Sequoia Miller – were very impressed with the strength and breadth of the field in Minnesota. The voices they represented brought the history of decorative craft, the process of working in clay, and an inclusive perspective on the field of contemporary ceramics.The McKnight Artist Fellowships for Ceramic Artists Program is designed to strengthen and enhance Minnesota’s artistic community, as well as significantly advance the work of Minnesota ceramic artists whose work is of exceptional artistic merit, who have already proven their abilities, and are at a career stage that is beyond emerging. Two grants of $25,000 each are awarded annually. The McKnight Artist Residencies for Ceramic Artists program intends to recognize and support ceramic artists whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit, who have already proven their abilities, and are at a career stage that is beyond emerging. The program is intended to provide these ceramic artists with an opportunity to be in residence for three months at Northern Clay Center, where they can develop their own work and, at the same time, exchange ideas and knowledge with Minnesota ceramic artists.

Dr. Sharif Bey is an associate professor of art at Syracuse University and is a teaching artist with extensive experience in ceramics, sculpture, art community programming and art teacher training. In 2010, the United States Arts in the Embassies program commissioned Bey to create one of his large-scale "conceptual bead" installations for the United States Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. His research focuses on uncovering and revising art education histories with a particular focus on African American artists and the art education of former communist Europe. His studio work ranges from decorative/functional pottery to conceptual ceramic works that are influenced by ritual and identity. 

Linda Lighton has had over 60 solo shows since 1979 and participated in over 150 group shows. She is a member of the International Academy of Ceramics and her work is in many international museums in China, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the US. She is the founder and director of the Lighton International Artist Exchange Program which has sent 150 artists to 53 countries and the Arctic Circle.

Dr. Sequoia Miller is chief curator of the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Canada. After nearly fifteen years as a full-time ceramic artist in the Pacific Northwest, Miller’s path took an unexpected turn in 2010 when he enrolled at the Bard Graduate Center to investigate persistent questions about the nature of the work of potters, earning an MA in Decorative Arts and Design History. His curatorial research and interests are not too removed from his philosophy as a maker. He was noted to have said that people don't actually purchase pots—“they buy the exploration, of which the pot is an artifact.”

Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, The McKnight Foundation’s arts program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1981. The McKnight Artist Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 10 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently the foundation contributes about $1.7 million per year to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit

The McKnight Foundation, a family foundation based in Minnesota, advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive. Program interests include regional economic and community development, Minnesota’s arts and artists, education equity, youth engagement, Midwest climate and energy, Mississippi River water quality, neuroscience research, international crop research, and rural livelihoods. Founded in 1953 and independently endowed by William and Maude McKnight, the Foundation has assets of approximately $2.2 billion and grants about $90 million a year.

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