Each year Standard Ceramic Supply Company gives young art students in the Pittsburgh region an opportunity to showcase their work in an exhibition at Clay Place @ Standard. Sidelined by the recent pandemic, the show returns at the end of this month for a four-week run in the gallery. We are pleased to welcome Scott Cornish, from the Community College of Allegheny County’s (CCAC) South Campus, as our judge this year.
Cornish has nearly two decades of experience in teaching. A trained potter, he credits his high school art teacher with steering him in the right direction. “I was straying academically, and he got me to take my career seriously,” he says. Cornish began his path to a career in art, earning his B.F.A. in Ceramics at Edinboro University and his M.F.A. in Ceramics at West Virginia University. With this early encouragement from a caring teacher, Cornish always knew he wanted to teach. His first offer after graduation was for a part-time teaching position at CCAC.
Like so many young art graduates, Cornish faced the difficulties of integrating paid employment with creative work. “I was struggling to make ends meet,” he recalls, “trying to establish studio space, teaching, and making.” While at Edinboro, he gravitated toward wood firing and envisioned having a home and studio in a rural setting with his own wood kiln. He met a young woman who kept and rode horses and shared his affinity for the rural life. Cornish took her on a trip to China where he had studied at WVU’s program there. They were married and began to look for a property that could accommodate their interests. In 2008, Cornish took a full-time position at CCAC as Educational Technician for Art and Theatre and they purchased a farm in Beaver County, near Ellwood City, with a barn that was perfect for Cornish’s studio.
Today, Cornish is a Professor at CCAC, teaching the craft he loves. He says, “When I first received the offer for a position at a community college, I was a bit reluctant. But I’ve come to really appreciate the community college model. It’s accessible education for anyone who wants it. I have a wide variety of students in terms of age, socio-economic background, and how they caught the ‘clay bug.’ More and more, I realize I really like it. The way I teach fits in well here.” Cornish did build his wood fire kiln at the Beaver County farm and delights in bringing groups of his students out for semi-annual firing weekends. “I love working with students outside the classroom,” he says. He regularly takes groups on field trips to museums, galleries, and conference, including the annual NCECA Conference. Last year, he and his wife bought a new farm in Washington County. He plans to spend the summer re-designing and re-building his kiln.
Students from over a dozen schools in the area will submit their works in clay to be reviewed by Cornish before the exhibition opens. Cornish says he will be looking for excellence in craftsmanship and creativity. He explains, “I always teach craftsmanship first.” He says that a conceptual component is important, too. He will consider age and educational resources in making his decision. Three top artists will be named, and their pieces will be highlighted at the exhibition.
Visitors can view the show at One Walnut Street in Carnegie at Clay Place@Standard, Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. through 3:00 p.m., starting on April 22 and running through May 20. A special gathering will take place on May 5, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the gallery, when the award winners will be acknowledged. For this event, face masks are not required but anyone who chooses to wear one is welcome to do so.
After April 22, view the show virtually, at www.standardceramic.com
The following schools have submitted entries:
Baldwin High School
Bethel Park High School
Carrick High School
The Ellis School
Gateway High School
Highlands High School
Peters Township High School
Quaker Valley High School
Riverside Beaver County School District High School
Seneca Valley High School
Trinity High School
Upper St. Clair High School
West Allegheny High School