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History

The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts is located near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Helena, Montana, on the grounds of what was once Western Clay Manufacturing Co. brick manufacturing company. Bray, an avid patron of the arts, envisioned an art center and built the Pottery in the spring of 1951, the first step in his dream to "make available for all who are seriously interested in the ceramic arts, a fine place to work."

Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos were the first resident managers of the Bray. The volume and quality of their work drew attention to the new program and attracted many talented and ambitious potters. A landmark workshop in 1952, with potters Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach, and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, had a profound influence on both Autio and Voulkos. Neither had seen clay treated so loosely and freely. It was an approach which changed their whole attitude towards clay.

Since its inception, the Bray has drawn more than 600 ceramic artists from around the world to work, including such well-known ceramists as Tre Arenz, Val Cushing, John and Andrea Gill, Wayne Higby, Clary Illian, Jun Kaneko, Eva Kwong, Jim and Nan McKinnell, Ron Meyers, Robert Sperry, Chris Staley, Akio Takamori, and Arnie Zimmerman.

Directors Ken Ferguson, David Shaner, and Dave Cornell worked hard at the Bray in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, to establish a sound financial base by selling pots, clay, and ceramic supplies, and by offering classes and workshops. Kurt Weiser's tenure as Resident Director at the Bray from 1977 to 1988 saw an expansion of the clay business with Chip Clawson as manager, and a successful fundraising effort to purchase the brickyard after it closed in 1960. Carol Roorbach became Resident Director in 1989, establishing a permanent endowment. Roorbach also initiated procedures for improved storage and documentation of the extensive and growing Bray permanent collection.

Josh DeWeese became Resident Director in 1991, and worked to establish a Resident Artist Scholarship fund which helps residents to enjoy studio space rent-free. In addition, the Bray now offers a growing number of resident artist fellowships which provide annual stipends for juried resident artists, and the Peter Voulkos Fellowship Fund supports an annual visiting artist award to a prominent, world-renowned ceramic artist to work at the Bray.

Most notably, the Bray, under DeWeese's leadership, successfully completed a $2.5 million capital campaign to construct a new state-of-the-art resident studio facility, expand endowment and strengthen annual operations.

Upon DeWeese’s retirement in 2006, Steven Young Lee accepted the position as Resident Artist Director. To date, under Lee’s leadership, the Bray has reached a series of important milestones. In 2008 and as part of a Comprehensive Kiln Project, seven new state-of-the-art, energy-efficient kilns were installed in the Shaner Studio’s kiln room, both reducing costs to artists and dramatically increasing the range of work resident artists can create. A celebration of the Bray’s 60th anniversary in 2011 featured a three-day artist symposium that brought together artists from around the globe and raised more than a half-million dollars. Further, also beginning in 2011, the Bray received the first of two, two-year grants from the Windgate Charitable Foundation that, along with generous support from individual donors, have made it possible for the Bray to provide fellowship and scholarship support to all of its 10 long-term and 10 summer resident artists for the past four years. Presently, Lee continues the work of enhancing facilities and educational opportunities to meet the needs of today’s ceramic artists.

 

Former Resident Directors

Rudy Autio, 1951–1957
Peter Voulkos, 1951–1954
Lillian Boschen, 1951–1952
Gene Bunker, 1957–1958
Ken Ferguson, 1958–1964
David Shaner, 1964–1970
Dave Cornell, 1970–1976
Kurt Weiser, 1976–1988
Carol Roorbach, 1989–1992
Josh DeWeese, 1992–2006

 

For more information on the history of the Bray, contact the Bray office.
Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts
2915 Country Club Avenue
Helena, MT 59602
Office Phone: 406-443-3502
Fax: 406-443-0934
E-Mail: archiebray@archiebray.org