Serendipitous: A History of Clay at the Huntington Museum of Art

June 25 - October 9, 2022

Ceramic artist and teacher Kathleen Kneafsey has served as Artist-in-Residence at the Huntington Museum of Art for the past 22 years. In addition to teaching various clay classes and maintaining the ceramics studio, she is responsible for inviting world-class clay artists to Huntington, West Virginia, through the Museum’s renowned Walter Gropius Master Artist Program.

This engagement includes an exhibit of the artist’s work, a public lecture, and an intensive multi-day workshop conducted in the Museum’s art studios designed by famed architect and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius.

Assembled from Kneafsey’s wildest imagination, the roster of ceramic artists who have visited the Museum includes both early vanguards of the studio pottery movement and next generation artists redefining what it means to work with clay. For more than two decades, Kneafsey’s efforts have earned this program national prominence.

A native Huntingtonian, Kathleen Kneafsey left her hometown at 17 years old and embarked on an exciting path of growth and discovery that ultimately, serendipitously brought her back to the place on the hill where it all began. “I had my first introduction to clay at the Museum, which led to a life choice that has been completely fulfilling,” Kneafsey said. “That first experience drove me to pursue study in clay, taking me to Clemson where I was fortunate enough to learn from a wonderfully gifted professor and mentor. I also met my husband there, and through his career travels, I was able to study clay in many different places with great artists. Then, we came back to my hometown, and the Museum and I became reacquainted.”

By chance, in 1997, Kneafsey saw an advertisement at Marshall University that the Huntington Museum of Art was looking for someone to teach children’s pottery. Perfectly suited for the role, her appointment soon expanded to include additional classes and, in 2000, after finishing graduate school at Miami University, the Museum offered her the position of Artist-in-Residence, a role she has cherished ever since. “My family has grown right along with this program,” Kneafsey said. “When I started in this position, I was expecting my first child, and the way I recall the dates of an artist’s visit is by how many children I had at the time or which child I was pregnant with. Many of the artists whom I asked to visit were chosen because they were parents themselves. I selfishly wanted to see how they juggled all the balls in the life of an artist, teacher, and parent. So, the growth of the program and the growth of my family, now three children in all, are completely intertwined.”

Kathleen Kneafsey’s lifelong commitment to ceramics education quietly underlies Serendipitous: A History of Clay at the Huntington Museum of Art. This sprawling exhibit, built from the Museum’s permanent collection, features contemporary ceramic artworks made by visiting artists in the Walter Gropius Master Artist Program. Brief recollections by Kneafsey, extruded from memory, accompany select artworks and enrich the gallery presentation. This is our history, and her story.

This exhibit is presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Serendipitous: A History of Clay at the Huntington Museum of Art

​Julia Galloway (American, b. 1966), Teapot with Saucer, 2003. Porcelain. Gift of Julia Galloway, 2003.11A-C. Photo by John Spurlock.