Inspired by the culture and history of Greece and the many ancient artifacts at the MSU Excavations at Isthmia, the Michigan State University students who were part of the 2023 Ceramic Arts in Greece Study Abroad used this experience to create their own works of art, which are now on display through Friday, Oct. 27, at the MSU Union Art Gallery, with a closing reception scheduled for Friday, Oct. 20, from 5 to 7 p.m.
The exhibition, In Exchange For The Fire, reflects each student’s unique experience with the study abroad program. During this summer program, students engaged practicing artists and archaeologists in demonstrations and discussions at studios, galleries, storerooms, and museums throughout Greece. They also had hands-on opportunities to study vessels and other artifacts at the MSU Excavations at Isthmia, providing unique insights into ancient processes and techniques.
“It fascinates me that objects handled and worked with by hands over 5,000 years ago exist to this day,” said Makenzie Sheehan-D’Arrigo, senior Studio Art major. “In a place with a history as rich as Greece, and in holding ceramics millennia old with my own hands, it is easy to feel lost in the grandeur of it all.”
In creating their own works of art, rather than imitate the artifacts and styles of the past, each student explored the relevance of the ancient traditions in their own contemporary lives.
“The ruins of ancient temples and artifacts that reach through time all indicate a sacred space, but it is the connection I feel to a space that makes it sacred,” said Christi Lopez, senior Graphic Design major. “In Greece, I found my sacred spaces in quiet moments…watching the sunrise while floating in the Aegean Sea, feeling the wind against my skin as I climbed Acrocorinth, feeling the stones beneath my feet as I walked the paths at Delphi. For me, working with clay offers a similar sacred experience. There is something about shifting and molding the medium that is therapeutic. To watch clay pieces transform through firing and then again through glazing, all without complete control over the outcomes is freeing.”
During the study abroad, students used the facilities of the Global Arts Studio, an arts academy in nearby Corinth, Greece, to create their own ceramic work. Here they explored the many creative possibilities of clay while sharpening their skills and developing their own personal style. When they returned to the Michigan State University campus, they continued to apply those skills in the production of ceramic works at Kresge Art Center.
This Ceramic Arts in Greece Study Abroad was led by Department of Art, Art History, and Design faculty Jon Frey, Associate Professor and Director of the MSU Excavations at Isthmia, and Rebecca Casement, Assistant Professor.
The In Exchange For The Fire exhibition features work by Sheehan-D’Arrigo, Lopez, Emma Borowski, a recent Applied Engineering graduate; Julia Egbert, senior Environmental Geosciences major; Nahom Ghebredngl, senior Computer Science major; Morgan Manuszak, senior Arts and Humanities major; Ally Miscikoski, senior Studio Art major; Marissa Rubaiai, recent BFA in Studio Art graduate; Liz Vadella, BFA in Art Teacher Education student; and Megan Weaver, MFA in Studio Art student.
The MSU Excavations at Isthmia recently was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to improve upon the storage and tracking of its collection of ancient artifacts. This is the same collection that the Ceramic Arts in Greece Study Abroad students had the opportunity to explore and were inspired by to create their own pieces. For more information on the grant and how the money will be used, see the story: “MSU Excavations at Isthmia to Use Radio Wave Tracking for Its Collection.”
For more information about the Ceramic Arts in Greece Study Abroad or the MSU Excavations at Isthmia, see the MSU Excavations at Isthmia website.