25th Anniversary Interview: Walter Ostrom, Regis Master

Why did you get involved initially?
I was invited to be a juror for the McKnight Ceramic Artist program. I was impressed by the McKnight program and asked about eligibility, i.e. out of state, Canadians? “Of course" they replied. These were the days when competitions, e.g. exhibitions, residencies, etc. frequently excluded people based on geography, residency, etc. It struck me then and continues to impress me that NCC has always been about INCLUSION.

What is the most surprising thing that has happened during your relationship with NCC?
Being ''appointed'' the Regis Master in 2014, which was one of the most wonderful things that happened to me in my professional life for all kinds of reasons. It was a huge honor; the people who have received this award were my heroes. I never ever dreamed that I would be honored... I thought maybe it was a mistake. It reminded me of being inducted into the Order of Canada, and my daughter commented to my wife, "Do you think there is more than one Walter Ostrom?"

What was the most gratifying thing about your NCC experience?
The most gratifying thing continues to be finding such a professional ceramic organization/institution/whatever dedicated to ceramics in its broadest sense, i.e. ceramics as in architecture, design, sculpture, but also seriously committed to pottery. I knew from the first day when I was toured around the impressive space/equipment/staff/participants, this was a serious place. When I was shown the LIBRARY.... a real library... and not just a cardboard box with books in it, I thought, “NCC GETS IT. Pottery is serious business.”

My mantra, which dates from my conceptual youth, continues to be,

“Pottery has content; it CONTAINS social, cultural, economic, and aesthetic information** AND Art is Information.”

What continues to be immensely gratifying is the feeling I am adding to this potterly discourse bubbling away in the big pot of NCC.

What will be different in 10 years?
Given that the NCC has a history of directors like Emily Galusha, who created and developed incredibly important programs/projects, it follows that the current director possesses the same 'savvy'. There seems to be a tradition of NCC administration having their ear to the ground. It is not surprising NCC is supporting the new and inventive MN NICE program, generated by Ursula Hargens and Sarah Millfelt. It addresses a major problem in ceramics today, i.e. the hollowing out of post secondary ceramic education.

My experience has been, WHEN YOU ARE DEALING WITH NCC, YOU ARE NOT PLAYING WITH KIDS ON THE STREET.