TASI brings gumbo style art to the heart of Southeast Texas


The Art Studio, Inc. (TASI) is hosting Gumbo Clayfest, a celebration of ceramic art, July 6-8 at its gallery at 720 Franklin St. in downtown Beaumont. Clayfest is a public event with demonstrations and workshops for those interested in making pottery or just interested in observing the fascinating process.

TASI Managing Director Greg Busceme explains that in the 1970s he was enthralled by the reputation of forging a career in clay – a love that has not waned over the years. With this festival of ceramists, Busceme hopes to help others to foster a love for clay creations.

“Some of these artists I’ve known for many years, others are newer friends,” Busceme shares of the guest artists, who will be coming to Southeast Texas the week of July 4th. All of the ceramists, he added, “are keen to come into our community and I hope, hope, HOPE you would like to meet them too.

“It will mean a lot to me that everyone will meet and learn from these generous ceramists and friends.”

Admission to the event is only possible with a donation of any amount. There’s a reason for this “pay what you feel” approach, Busceme further shared, and it has to do with the inclusive nature of ceramic art.

“Clay is one of the oldest arts there is,” said Busceme. “It’s an art that’s 20,000 years old. From cooking pots to drinking vessels to sculptures, it’s one of the first things people did after harnessing fire and figuring out how clay reacted with it. It was one of the things that made us human.”

Presenting artists include Gary Greenberg from Clarion University; Patsy Cox, Professor of Fine Arts at California State University-Northridge; Danielle Weigandt, a paper clay artist working in North Dakota; Stephen Wolochowicz, an artist specializing in abstract industrial forms with organic features; and Steven Erickson, a New York-based artist who works with large-scale adobe constructions.

Gary “Greeny” Greenberg spent most of his formative years in the principal’s office, and since then has spent as many years in front of a kiln as possible. Greenberg, who has been featured in a variety of publications and universities over the past 52 years, takes the humor in his work seriously.

“While I take the production of work very seriously, I strongly believe that it should contain an element of humor that reflects the absurdities of life in general and art in particular,” Greenberg explained. “In that regard, all the time I spent in the principal’s office and all the time I spent watching the Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers wasn’t really wasted.”

Patsy Cox, a Bay Stater who was born in Thailand and grew up in Massachusetts, has exhibited her work from China to California—and beyond. Cox also holds a number of honors, Professor and Head of Ceramics at California State University-Northridge and past President of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, to name just two honors.

Leaving her digs in LA for the heat of Southeast Texas, Cox anticipated what TASI participants would find most useful in cultivating their own pottery.

“Participants will learn how to make small plaster mother molds with alginate,” she shared. Topics covered include creating and using stamps/twigs and making colored clay bodies.

Stephen Wolochowicz was born and raised near Trenton, New Jersey, but has made his rounds across America — attending colleges in Ohio and Delaware before taking on the role of teacher at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Central Missouri and Central Michigan University took over. He currently lives, works and has a studio in Ogden, Utah, where he is Associate Professor of Art in Ceramics at Weber State University.

“The artworks I create are made entirely of ceramic material,” explains Wolochowicz. “My constructed forms are derived from abstractions and draw from a range of thoughts and objects that include themes such as industrialization, humour, gaming, politics and the environment. While I have these specific areas of interest that shape and define my practice, I find it interesting how a viewer perceives and interprets my artworks.”

Self-proclaimed Army brat Danielle Weigandt, who is currently Artist in Residence at the University of North Dakota, equated her art with the term “time.”

“What is time? It can’t be seen, heard, smelled or touched,” Weigandt muses. “It eludes all of our senses, and yet we experience it every day. Time is omnipresent. For most, time is just a clock on the wall, a constant 24-hour cycle that repeats itself over and over in a seemingly endless loop.

“My art creatively gives shape to these ideas using art, geology and quantum mechanics. Like time itself, there is no end in sight for my work and these forms.”

Chris Leonard arrived in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley in 1987 and quickly began making big plans as he lived his life bit by bit. Leonard has been teaching for decades, has also found a family of four, pets and trying to find as much time as possible for his art keeps him quite busy. Still, he has taken the time to coordinate the South Texas Ceramic Showdown for the past decade, which has showcased collaborative talent from participating schools inside and outside the Lone Star State, as well as workshops and exhibitions by established ceramic artists.

Steven Erickson transitioned from Studio Manager at Greenwich House Pottery in New York, New York to lead a nonprofit focused on mentoring at-risk teens through a ceramics program and is now a full-time studio artist living in upstate New York and Exhibits in galleries in New York City and Pennsylvania.

“I make art because I love magic,” he said. “I never get bored of making something appear out of nowhere. I love how art brings together all the things I love, the mental exploration of ideas, the solving of the puzzle and then the physical labor to create the final piece.”

The workshops/demonstrations include working with paper mache, constructing clay pieces with spools and decorative glazing.

The Gumbo Clayfest starts at 9:00 am every day and ends after the projects are completed. No registration is required.

“We will stop letting people in when we reach the fire safety limit!” Busceme said.

For more information, call TASI at (409) 838-5393.


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