When the 52nd Annual Conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts convenes in Pittsburgh this coming March 14 – 17, Standard Ceramic will transform its facilities into several galleries that will feature exhibitions by noted ceramic artists. In addition, eight universities will be featured in “pop-up” shipping container galleries on the property. Standard Ceramic is located in Carnegie, a nearby community just fifteen minutes from the downtown conference location. Conference attendees will be able to travel to the site via charter buses and make their way through the galleries, viewing the art and touring Standard’s clay-making and glaze operations, its ClayPlace@Standard gallery space, Ceramic Supply Pittsburgh, and the company’s offices. Local musicians will perform throughout the opening, with food and drink provided.
The 2018 conference theme – Crosscurrents: Clay and Culture – will explore sources of inspiration that influence and impact work in ceramics today. The Standard exhibitions will address this theme. Over the next several months, we will feature stories about these artists and their shows here on our website. Visit us often to read about this exciting event.
As over 6,000 people stream into Pittsburgh for this year’s NCECA Conference, the scope of interest in the ceramic arts and the diversity of makers, teachers, and collectors will be evident. Standard Ceramic’s NCECA Exhibits will include the work of former Washington Redskins Chris Cooley, a man in whom the power of creativity could not be squelched. This owner of The Cooley Gallery in Leesburg, Virginia returned to an early love after nine years in major league football. His The Cooley Gallery exhibit will showcase his functional pieces.
As an art major at Utah State, Cooley belied the stereotypical college football player. His father was an amateur potter, exposing Cooley to art at an early age and inspiring him to pursue a degree in the arts. Even after he was drafted by the NFL in 2004, he continued to sketch during team travel. In 2006, while still playing, he bought a potter’s wheel and dabbled without much success. His father visited him, saw the wheel in Cooley’s basement, and gave him some tips. Something clicked, and Cooley was hooked. Aside from his father’s guidance and online instruction videos, he is mostly self-taught. His functional pieces include cups, jugs, and carafes. He says, “Creating something every day is what makes me most happy. Whether it be pottery, drawing or making my own concrete countertops, I just have this desire to continue to create. The idea of knowing I made a piece of art that someone loves and uses is amazing.”
Like most artists, Cooley found himself with a huge amount of product. In 2010, he opened The Cooley Gallery to display and sell his work, along with that of other artists in a variety of media. The gallery’s mission is to “instruct and inspire our local artists, customers and guests… and to provide a high-quality source of visual art for our clients.” The gallery also provides classes and workshops for both adults and children. Cooley feels very strongly that art touches the human heart and styles the gallery’s activities to fulfill that longing, be it in finding the perfect piece for a client, providing marketing consulting for an artist, or providing a fun and educational art experience for a young student.
Since retiring from the NFL in 2010, he focuses on the gallery, has a radio show, and does color commentary for the Redskins. He says, “I try to be creative in everything I do. Although Football player, radio host and artist seem to be an odd combination, they are all similar by allowing me to express who I am as person.” These words will likely ring true to many NCECA visitors who share Cooley’s passion for incorporating art into a full life.
Learn more about Chris Cooley and The Cooley Gallery at www.thecooleygallery.com
With a 75-year history as one of Pittsburgh’s major arts organizations, Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media (PCA&M) has weathered many changes. Founded as a conglomeration of individual art groups in 1945 as The Arts and Crafts Center, it grew to become a nexus for art education and exhibition with a unified vision and strong leadership. When the center’s current Executive Director, Kyle Houser joined the organization in 2013, a decade of uncertainty had left the group in financial difficulty and organizational turmoil. Houser’s dedication to rebuilding the center’s strengths contributed to a major reorganization in late 2019. Houser says, “2020 was the year to turn the ship around. Unfortunately, in March, we hit an iceberg.”