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The 50th Brings the Funk at MCG Youth & Arts

Middle Passage Vessel by David MacDonald in the “Funk: American Dada” exhibit at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.

MCG Youth & Arts celebrated both the return of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) annual convention and its 50th anniversary with a powerful ceramics exhibit and a three-day, hands-on workshop for students.

“Funk: American Dada” featured strong political and personal work from 10 of the top contemporary, African American ceramic artists. The exhibit was a homecoming for several of the artists who were either former students, teaching artists, or visiting artists.

Curated by Anthony Merino, the show’s title references musicians such as George Clinton, who crossed currents to obliterate genres and subvert the norm. The artists featured in “Funk: American Dada” do the same using clay; not notes. The exhibit—sanctioned by NCECA— featured Malcolm Mobutu Smith, Kelly Phelps, Kyle Phelps, Lydia Thompson, David MacDonald, Yinka Orafidiya, Janathel Shaw, James Watkins, Sharif Bey, and Angelica Pozo.

While all ceramic work, the pieces in the exhibit varied in style, scale, and intent from the Phelps brothers’ tableaus documenting the lives of middle-class factory works to Orafidiya’s Freedom Cups. Some artists showcased older works like MacDonald’s arresting Middle Passage vessels, and others created new works specifically for this exhibit like Pozo’s expressive tile paintings.

The reception was attended by many of the artists as well as hundreds of convention attendees. NCECA offered shuttle service to the 6,500 registered attendees from the convention center to MCG.

In the days leading up to NCECA, Bey co-presented the three-day workshop for students with MacDonald. Bey came of age at MCG; discovering clay as a teen and eventually returning to teach ceramics in the very same studio.

The two masters worked alongside the students on a collaborative project allowing everyone to get their hands dirty and to express themselves personally.

“Can you tell how much fun David and I had working with kids at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild,” asked Bey. “I used to think that MCG was a magical place. Now I understand that MCG brings out the magic we all have inside of us.”

Ceramic artist Sharif Bey teaching a workshop with MCG Youth & Arts students. Photo by Jeff Guerrero.