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WMU Morean Center Brings Art to Life for Students and Community

The Morean Center for Clay at Western Michigan University recently opened its doors for its inaugural workshop series, and Director Kyle Triplett has big plans.

“I am particularly interested in hosting visiting instructors that are engaging with the material of clay in new and exciting ways. I want the programming to span the entire spectrum of the field of ceramics from tableware and vessel design, the human figure, sculpture, public art, digital 3D printing and performance.” 

The Morean Center for Clay at WMU is a year-round workshop series that brings the best in contemporary ceramics directly to the campus of Western Michigan University.

The center hosts hands-on studio intensive workshops with local and visiting ceramic artists and designers from around the country--and the world. Through demonstration and in-depth discussion, participants experiment and produce artwork under the mentorship of talented instructors, creating an inspiring and unforgettable experience.

Recently, the center hosted a two-week Intensive with Chandra DeBuse, a studio potter in Kansas City and a founding member of Kansas City Urban Potters, and Kyle Johns, a resident and Adjunct Professor at the University of Kansas. The intensive was open to anyone with interest and featured live demonstrations, lectures, and a field trip. This includes WMU and visiting students interested in earning university credits, as well as individuals from the local and regional community. And that’s not all, the center offers something for everyone, from beginners to advanced makers.

The Morean Center for Clay

All of this was made possible by WMU alumna and ceramic artist, Beth Morean, who is the driving force behind the Morean Center for Clay in St. Petersburg, Florida. One of the largest and most well-known clay and ceramic centers in the U.S., the Morean brings top artists in their fields and offers residency programs to some of the best and brightest young and emerging artists. Because of her generosity, WMU can now offer the same expert instruction.

The transformative gift that established the center at WMU also included funding for an endowed professorship, assistantships for a new graduate degree in Ceramics and an annual semester-long residency for students at the Morean Center for Clay in St. Petersburg. Kyle Triplett, Morean Endowed Distinguished Professor in Ceramics and Director of the Morean Center for Clay at WMU, is excited about the many opportunities associated with the gift, and the center.

“As a faculty member, it’s a great honor to have the opportunity to collaborate with an alum donor to create a program like the Morean Center for Clay at WMU, that helps make an education at WMU truly unique,” Triplett explains.

Ashley Murawa (B.A.’08, Art Education) is a WMU alumna and art instructor at Atelier Art Studio in Royal Oak, Michigan. She was able to take advantage of this new opportunity at WMU to further her skillset in both teaching and for her personal art.

“It was a great balance of new challenges but felt safe enough to take creative risks with these new techniques. I have made connections with these fellow artists and art teachers and plan to stay in touch,” Murawa said in an email. She looks forward to applying the new concepts and techniques she learned into her own classroom, as well to her own art making practice. Additionally, she felt inspired to be able to meet fellow artists and art teachers and learn from them—something you can’t always get from a virtual experience.

“Having an in-person art making studio experience is wonderful. It is a great way to dig deeper into my own personal art making while also forming connections and networking in the field,” she said. “We were exposed to a variety of new and different techniques, and had the resident artists there with us coaching us and giving us constant feedback.”

Murawa also had great things to say about the center itself, describing it as a fun, relaxed, and creative atmosphere, thanks to the work of Triplett.

“Our goal with Morean Center for Clay is to create a workshop program that grows into a destination for students interested in working with some of the top ceramic artists and designers in the U.S. and abroad,” Triplett said.

“For our students, as well as the community of Kalamazoo and across the region, the center is a place to learn about and make ceramics in the wonderful combination of a university research laboratory and art center environment.”

Learn more about the Morean Center for Clay at WMU, here.

Learn more about the Morean Center for Clay in St. Petersburg, Florida, here.

More about the inaugural visiting artists:

Chandra DeBuse is a studio potter in Kansas City and a founding member of Kansas City Urban Potters. She received her MFA from the University of Florida in 2010 and was a resident artist at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Chandra has presented her work as a 2012 NCECA Emerging Artist, the 2016 Utilitarian Clay Symposium and the 2021 Functional Ceramics Workshop as well as led over 70 workshops at art centers nationwide. Chandra’s tableware and objects feature hand-drawn characters and patterns providing the users with an inviting narrative along with a thoughtfully designed object for daily use. Chandra’s work has been exhibited nationally including solo exhibits at Charlie Cummings Gallery, Crimson Laurel Galley and the Carbondale Clay Center.

Kyle Johns is currently a resident at the Interdisciplinary Ceramics Research Center and Adjunct Professor at University of Kansas. Kyle has also taught at Harvard University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) and Kansas State University. and has participated in residencies at Red Lodge Clay Center, the Archie Bray Foundation, and International Ceramics Center in Kecskemet, Hungary. Kyle’s vessels use the traditionally rigid processes of mold making and industrial production to create free form objects that are the result of play, variation, and modification.  Kyle’s work has been exhibited at galleries and museum around the country including, most recently, at Duane Reed Gallery in St. Louis, Missouri.