Announcing the Recipients of the 2020 McKnight Artist Fellowship and Residency for Ceramic Artists Awards

Northern Clay Center is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 McKnight Artist Fellowships: Andrea Leila Denecke (Scandia, MN) and Brad Menninga (Saint Paul, MN) and the 2020 McKnight Artist Residencies: Ashwini Bhat (Petaluma, CA), Edith Garcia (El Granada, CA), Tom Hubbard (Attleboro, MA), and Roberta Massuch (Philadelphia, PA).

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.

Leila Denecke, Sekki II Leila Denecke Brad Menninga, Wedgewood Cannon Brad Menninga (photo by Jeremy Alameda)

Drawing upon varying stimuli from her surroundings and past experiences, Andrea Leila Denecke (Scandia, MN) creates functional objects, sculptures, and installations to elicit a sense of strength and timelessness. Reminiscent of historical tools and structures, her work is powerful in its simplicity and presented in a manner with which Denecke provides the viewer an island of tranquility for contemplation. Utilizing traditional wheel-throwing and construction methods, her minimalistic forms are completed by means of long-practiced soda-firing techniques. Denecke received her BA in Art and German in 1972 from Cornell College (Mount Vernon, IA), Diploma with honors in 1986 from Tekisui Museum of Art – Ceramic Art Research Institute (Ashiya, Japan), MFA in studio art in 1989 from Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge), and certification from the Institute for Public Art and Design in 1998 from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MN). Throughout her education and career, she has been recognized with myriad awards and honors including but not limited to the Jerome Residency Fellowship at Franconia Sculpture Park in 2003, Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in 2008 and 2013, McKnight Artist Fellowship for Ceramic Artists in 2004 and 2008, and a 1991 commission through the Minneapolis Arts Commission to create and construct the installation Stele Mississippi for the Ibaraki City Municipal Library (Japan). Denecke has exhibited her work at venues across the United States and internationally. Her work can be found in numerous publications and in collections including those at Minneapolis Institute of Art (MN), Seto City Museum of Art (Seto, Aichi Prefecture, Japan), and United Hospital (Saint Paul, MN).

Brad Menninga (Saint Paul, MN) explores continuity and disruptions between past and present through his work through referencing and reimagining neoclassical forms of the Enlightenment era while employing techniques of various periods in ceramic history. Drawing connections from the idealism of the 18th century to contemporary attacks on democracy and society, Menninga utilizes visual narrative to interrogate foundational myths of family, community, and nation by highlighting cracks and omissions. With functional and installation work as the vehicle, his work prompts the viewer to examine the past and reevaluate the constantly shifting contingencies of todays’ society. Menninga received his BA in Politics in 1992 from Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH) and his MFA in 2010 from California College of the Arts (San Francisco). He has presented his work and techniques in the magazines Ceramic Arts Daily and Pottery Making Illustrated and has facilitated activist art-making workshops through the Portland, Oregon chapters of Jobs with Justice and Art & Revolution. Menninga has been included in collective installations at the Walters Cultural Art Center (Hillsboro, OR), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (CA), and created solo installations at the Mall of America (Bloomington, MN) and at the 2019 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference (St. Paul, MN). He currently resides within his 2020 Minnesota Artist Initiative Grant-supported period room installation: The Life and Legacy of Gijsbert van Engelenhoven.

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. These four artists will each be in residence at Northern Clay Center for three consecutive months in 2021.

Ashwini Bhat, Alive Ashwini Bhat (photo by Forrest Gander) Edith Garcia, Fabricating the Real (Installation) Edith Garcia

Exploring the deep relationship between the human and non-human, between the constructed and the inherited, Ashwini Bhat (Petaluma, CA) creates sculptures inviting viewers to interact with the revealed and the hidden. Trained in wheel-throwing methods, Bhat transitioned to hand-building in order to expand and better articulate her passion for form. She often introduces radical, but somehow familiar, shapes that suggest the complex interplay between landscape and body. Bhat’s work addresses concerns that are distinctively international. She notes, “If I speak several languages, if I can call on my background in literature and dance, perhaps I can apply my distinctive experience to my work in order to cross some of the borders that keep empathy, feeling, and even beauty bound.”

Bhat studied with American expatriate Ray Meeker at Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry, India. Prior to her career as a visual artist, she studied and performed Indian classical dance, Bharatanatyam, and traveled extensively with the Padmini Chettur Dance Company. She received her MA in Literature & Translation Studies from Bangalore University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at locations including Shoshana Wayne Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), Lucy Lacoste Gallery (Concord, MA), Cavin-Morris Gallery (New York, NY), Cohen Gallery at Brown University (Providence, RI), the American Jazz Museum (Kansas City, MO), the Newport Art Museum (Newport, RI), Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park (Japan), India Art Fair (India), FuLe International Ceramic Art Museum (China), and Woodfire Tasmania (Australia). Her sculpture also has been widely reviewed and featured in Brooklyn Rail (USA), Lana Turner: a Journal of Poetry and Opinion (USA), Riot Material (USA), Ceramic Art and Perception (USA/ Australia), Ceramics Ireland (Ireland), New Ceramics (Germany), Caliban (USA), Crafts Arts International (Australia), The Studio Potter (USA), Logbook (Ireland), and Ceramics Monthly (USA).

Bhat is the guest curator for the 77th Scripps College Annual, Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Claremont, CA in 2022.

Edith Garcia (El Granada, CA) has long embraced unconventional and experimental projects. Within her research and creative productions, she addresses the ideas of transience, the status of the object in contemporary art and theory, and the consciousness of our contemporaneity as a society. Her body of work has been exhibited throughout North America, Mexico, and Europe and has been the recipient of national and international awards. She has participated in various artist residencies, and is now Distinguished Visiting Professor at the California College of the Arts (Oakland, CA). She has been featured in solo, touring, and group exhibitions at national and international venues such as the Royal College of Art (London, UK), Gimpel Fils, (London, UK), British Ceramics Biennial, (Stoke-on-Trent, UK), Baltimore Clayworks (Baltimore, MD), Northern Clay Center (Minneapolis, MN), Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago, IL), Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Gatlinburg, TN), Transmission Gallery (Oakland, CA), and Minneapolis College of Art and Design (Minneapolis, MN).

Garcia continues to be actively engaged in critical research on the convergence of contemporary art, technologies, education, and design with curatorial projects, publishing, and the realization of creative productions. Garcia received her BFA in 1998 from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MN), MFA in 2004 from the California College of the Arts (San Francisco, CA), and her MPhil in 2012 at the Royal College of Art (London, UK). She has authored numerous articles for publication on visual and design culture, including VJ: Audio-Visual Art and VJ Culture with D-Fuse (Laurence King Publishing), Ceramics and the Human Figure, A&C Black (Bloomsbury Publishing) and has been featured in numerous publications including Ceramic Review Magazine, American Craft Magazine, Ceramics: Art and Perception, Ceramics Monthly, and Breaking the Mould: New Approaches to Ceramics.

Garcia’s academic affiliates include the University of California, Berkeley, and California College of the Arts, (San Francisco, CA). She has additionally conducted lectures and workshops nationally and internationally at venues including Westminster University (Harrow, UK), University of Ulster (Belfast, UK), Carleton College (Northfield, MN), Cardiff School of Art and Design (Cardiff, UK), and Minneapolis College of Art and Design (Minneapolis, MN). 

Tom Hubbard,
Future Relics No. 51
and 54
Tom Hubbard (photo by Tod Martens) Roberta Massuch,
Deco Vase
Roberta Massuch

Tom Hubbard (Attleboro, MA) approaches his work with foundations built through his design training and strong belief that the solution is often derived from the problem in question, allowing each project to evolve organically. Through a diligent process of inquiry, research, and immersion, he explores, interprets, and distills visual opportunities into solutions that are specific, unique, and meaningful. Informed by current events, and exploring themes of loss, memory, and the passage of time, Hubbard aims to allow the viewer to freely interpret his abstract forms that reference industrial implements to discern their forms, markings, and meanings. Hubbard received his BFA from Indiana University (Bloomington) and continued to interact with myriad colleges, universities, museums and institutions to present lectures and workshops. Over the course of his career, Hubbard has been awarded numerous grants, residencies, and honors including an Individual Artist’s Grant by the Indiana Arts Commission in 2004, Open Studio Residency at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in 2014, and was named Merit Fellow & Resident Artist at The Steel Yard in 2019. Additionally, he has received recognition through numerous print and broadcast sources including The Indianapolis Star, Chicago Sun Times, The Veteran, Ceramics MonthlyCeramics: Art and Perception, and TEDx Augusta. Hubbard’s work has been featured in group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally at venues including the Herron School of Art (Indianapolis, IN), National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum (Chicago, IL), Haagse/Kunstkring (Den Haag, The Netherlands), Kent State University (Kent, OH), and the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (IN) with works additionally included in various collections including the Chicago Public Library (IL), University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne, IN), the Robby Poblete Foundation (Vallejo, CA), and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (IN).

Influenced heavily by the architecture of her surroundings, Roberta Massuch (Philadelphia, PA) creates functional pottery, sculptural vessels, and installations with evident reflection on construction techniques and the presence of hand. Utilizing the dichotomy of varied surface colors and interactions, she establishes a comparison to individuals and human interaction; her incorporation of the step motif serves as a metaphor for change. Leaving seams exposed as evidence of construction, her work allows the viewer opportunity to ascertain the interaction of individual components and reference to their structural influence. Massuch received her BFA in ceramics in 2005 from Northern Illinois University (DeKalb) and her MFA in 2013 from Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge). In addition to posts as instructor at The Clay Studio (Philadelphia, PA), Tyler School of Art (Philadelphia, PA), and the Community College of Philadelphia (PA), she has received awards including the Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant in 2009, the Independence Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship in 2015, and further recognition through publications such as Clay Times, Ceramics Monthly, Musing About Mud, and various exhibition catalogs through The Clay Studio. Massuch’s work has been exhibited at universities, institutions, galleries and museums across the western United States including Northern Clay Center (Minneapolis, MN), Appalachian Center for Craft (Smithville, TN), Worcester Center for Craft (MA), The Clay Studio, Philadelphia Museum of Art (PA), Goggleworks Center for the Arts (Reading, PA), and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond (VA).

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The jurors in 2020 were very impressed with the strength and breadth of the field. 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.

Winnie Owens-Hart is highly-regarded as an educator, artist, author, and advocate in various arenas including those of ceramics, art, and culture. Beginning in her formative years, Owens-Hart has long been involved in the ceramics community and has continued as an advocate for education. Realizing her passion and interest in African ceramic traditions, she embarked on the first of many trips to Nigeria and Ghana in 1977 to learn the historical techniques of women potters in western Africa. Working with, and learning directly from, potters carrying on the techniques of their history, she forged strong personal connections and shared these methods through numerous workshops across the country and her over 37-year career as an instructor at Howard University. Throughout her lifetime of travels, Owens-Hart has become an advocate and conduit to educate others about the arts, culture, and historical techniques through workshops, exhibitions, publications, and production of documentaries. Owens-Hart’s work has been shown in various gallery and museum settings both nationally and internationally. Additionally, her work has been produced as public installations and public projects in numerous locations and is included in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian (Washington, DC), Kohler Art Center (Kohler, WI), along with myriad public and private collections.

Virgil Ortiz is first and foremost a potter but his creative and inquisitive nature has carried his processes and creations into an exploration combining art, décor, fashion, video, and film. Raised in a creative environment in which storytelling, collecting clay, gathering wild plants, and making figurative pottery was commonplace, he carries forward many influences of his heritage including those of his maternal lineage including renowned Pueblo potters. Merging Cochiti tradition with his own storytelling, Ortiz keeps traditions alive with contemporary and individualized vision. Ortiz’s exquisite works have been exhibited in museum collections around the world including the Stedelijk Museum (Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands), Foundation Cartier pour I’art Contemporain (Paris), the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, DC), the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (Richmond), and the Denver Art Museum.

Marcelino Puig-Pastrana received his BFA and BA in art history in 2000 from Fordham University (New York). Puig-Pastrana’s studies have additionally encompassed dance, drawing, painting, and printmaking, as well as both lighting and graphic design. In 1992, he was a recipient of a young artist grant in choreography from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2017 he was a finalist with honorary mention in the 39th International Competition of Ceramic Art (Gualdo Tadino, Italy). Puig-Pastrana’s work is placed in permanent collections and has exhibited both nationally and internationally. His work has been featured in various group exhibitions and received additional accolades with three solo exhibitions in the last two years. Featuring drawings and ceramic works, his solo exhibitions were hosted at Museo Casa Escuté (Carolina, PR) and the Museo de las Américas (San Juan, PR) in 2018, and at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez in 2019. His work has also been added to the permanent collections of the Polo Museale Gualdo Tadino (Perugia, Italy) and the Museo de Arte at Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez.

Additional information is available on our website.


Northern Clay Center’s mission is to advance the ceramic arts for artists, learners, and the community, through education, exhibitions, and artist services. Its goals are to create and promote high-quality, relevant, and participatory ceramic arts educational experiences; cultivate and challenge ceramic arts audiences through extraordinary exhibitions and programming; support ceramic artists in the expansion of their artistic and professional skills; and embrace makers from diverse cultures and traditions in order to create a more inclusive clay community. We strive to meet our goals through ongoing programs including exhibitions; classes and workshops for children and adults at all ages and levels of proficiency; studio facilities and grants for individual artists; and a sales gallery representing many of the top ceramic artists in the region and country. NCC’s facility is handicapped-accessible. Additional information about all programs can be found on our website at

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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