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Ceramics Program Hosts Clay Olympics

Ceramics Program Hosts Clay Olympics

Posted: May 14, 2012

Approximately 40 students from Kenmore East, Lancaster, Lewiston-Porter, and Pioneer high schools are facing off in an Olympic-style contest at Buffalo State on Friday, May 18, that flexes their creative muscles.

During the 14th annual Western New York Clay Olympics, students will work individually and in teams to compete in timed events using clay and various clay-forming methods beginning at 10:30 a.m. and running until 12:15 p.m. in Upton Hall 128.

Hosted by Buffalo State’s ceramics program, the contest brings together the students of four teachers who went through the ceramics program together in the 1990s—Matt SaGurney (Kenmore East), Brett Coppins (Lewiston-Porter), Ann Perry-Smith (Lancaster), and Scott Losi (Pioneer). The camaraderie they formed more than 15 years ago has morphed into the good-natured competition.

“Bob Wood really created a family atmosphere down there in that studio,” said SaGurney, who earned his bachelor’s degree in art education in 1996 and his master’s in multidisciplinary studies in 2001. “We’ve been able to keep that going in the form of this event. Our students really love this day every year.”

Coppins, who learned of a similar competition in another part of the state, organized the first Clay Olympics in the spring of 1999 with Wood, chair of the design department and professor and coordinator of the ceramics program. Coppins recruited the three alums to join him.

“Stumbling through the ceramics program all together, we not only challenged each other creatively, but we also formed friendships,” Coppins said. “We’ve been in each other’s weddings and attended birthday parties for each other’s children.”

Meanwhile, the Clay Olympics has only gained momentum through the years.

Coppins, who earned his bachelor of fine arts in 1996 and his art education certification in 1998, fell in love with ceramics as a student at Lewiston-Porter High School under the tutelage of art teacher Stan Panetski. When Panetski retired, he essentially switched places with Coppins. Panetski took a part-time teaching position at Buffalo State, and Coppins succeeded him as the Lewiston-Porter ceramics and sculpture teacher.

Now, Coppins takes students from his Advanced Placement 3-D portfolio course yearly to the Clay Olympics, an event they all look forward to.

“The Buffalo State ceramics program continues to host the Western New York Clay Olympics in an effort to promote and recognize the educational component of ceramics in the area’s high schools,” Wood said. “It also builds community among the area high school students and shares a love of and passion for the medium in all of its richness and diversity through an exhibition of the participating students’ ceramic work.” 

In conjunction with the contest, students get to display their artwork in the Czurles-Nelson Gallery in Upton Hall, and a jury selects the winners. The winning artists will receive cash awards made possible by the Sylvia L. Rosen Endowment at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Awards will be presented at 1:15 p.m. in the gallery.

“Sylvia is the reason any of this happens,” SaGurney said. “She has been our benefactor since the beginning. It’s her love and passion for clay that makes all of this possible.”

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call (716) 878-5154.

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