Penn State School of Visual Arts ceramics students are known for going on to do great things, so it’s no surprise that three alumni were among the six recipients of the 2017 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Emerging Artist award: Brooks Oliver ('14 M.F.A), Christina Erives ('14 M.F.A.), and Rachel Eng ('10 B.F.A.). In addition, Erives was the recipient of this year's Victor Spinski Award.
The intent of the Emerging Artist award is “to recognize, cultivate, and amplify vital, new voices of creative endeavor in ceramics.” The award enables the recipients to reach broader national and international audiences and impact discourse in the field. The award presentation is a highlight of the NCECA annual conference, held this year in Portland. The Emerging Artists are also recognized on the NCECA blog, blog.nceca.net.
"Being named an Emerging Artist gives recognition to new voices of creative endeavors in the field, and allows us to contribute our different perspectives to the dialogue," said Eng. "The increased exposure and support enables us to cultivate and share our research with a broader audience."
Oliver said it was “such an honor” to be named an Emerging Artist this year. "I distinctly remember attending my first NCECA nine years ago and going to the Emerging Artist talks and thinking, if only one day I can be so lucky to be up on that stage—so actually being up there was almost a feeling too special to attempt to describe."
Erives said it means a lot to have her work recognized on a national level. "It sort of places us all on the scene as young hardworking artists who are beginning to make names for ourselves in our field."
According to Shannon Goff, assistant professor in ceramics, young artists like Oliver, Erives, and Eng—along with fellow alum Roberto Lugo, who was named an Emerging Artist in 2015—are “redefining the future” of ceramics. “These four alumni are fresh voices from underrepresented populations who help disrupt and expand the ‘field,’” said Goff. “All of their work is powerful and performs with agency.”
The Penn State winners agreed that they thrived in SoVA’s nurturing environment, noting the faculty keep in touch with their students long after graduation. Eng, who is now an assistant professor at Dickinson College, said her Penn State experience contributed to the development of her own teaching philosophy of creating a supportive and safe environment where students feel comfortable experimenting and making mistakes. "There was a great sense of camaraderie in the studio, where ideas and conversations were exchanged and lasting friendships were made.”