After 54 years of hosting in-person conferences around the world, the National Council on Education and for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) will hold its first-ever virtual conference in Cincinnati from March 17–21. The 2020 conference, which was expected to attract more than 6,000 people to the Visual Arts Center in Richmond, Virginia, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the conference will feature virtual exhibitions that pay tribute to the event’s “Rivers, Reflection, Reinventions” theme, which is a nod to the Cincinnati region’s natural and constructed waterways.
Cincinnati’s ceramicist scene looks vastly different than it did the last time NCECA visited in 1990, and it’s a big deal the conference is returning. “NCECA is usually hosted by a city that has a strong clay presence,” says Laura Davis, owner of Core Clay studio in Norwood. “We have [strong] programs and a good group of potters here in Cincinnati.” Marsha Karagheusian, a NCECA board member and on-site conference liaison, adds that “No other art form has a conference this big.”
Thousands of ceramic artists from around the world are expected to attend this year’s series of virtual exhibitions, programming, panel discussions, and demonstrations. A few local venues will also host in-person art installations that can be enjoyed by locals, including at the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery and UC’s DAAP Galleries. (The venues will be accessible to visitors while following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.) Core Clay, as well as Oakley-based Queen City Clay, are both involved in helping make the 2021 NCECA conference possible. Queen City Clay President Ben Clark will help host select shows during the conference, with the ultimate goal of highlighting local businesses that support ceramic artists in the area. Queen City Clay will also host a virtual booth where they’ll share live videos and links to their online store.
Both organizations are also in the process of expanding their ceramic art facilities. Core Clay recently relocated to a new home in Norwood, after outgrowing its original building. The larger space allows room for new gas and electric kilns, event space, private classrooms, and an overall increase in resources for every department.
Queen City Clay, which has also outgrown its flagship Oakley location, is also relocating to a new home in Norwood in the next few months that will allow more space for classrooms. This means, the organization will also be able to expand programming, including more workshops and field trips for visiting students.
NCECA’s Board of Directors considers potential host cities several years in advance, so event organizers had already been working with Cincinnati representatives long before COVID-19 hit. After hosting a successful virtual event in March, NCECA hopes to return again for a future conference when traveling and large gatherings are safer for the community. Until then, you can sign up for the virtual conference or visit local organizations like Core Clay and Queen City Clay.