From our new 53,916-square-foot building to a suite of expanded education offerings and public programs, it can be hard to keep track of the many exciting changes coming to Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center in 2020. That’s why we’re interviewing staff members from all areas of our organization for a feature we’re calling #ThursdayThree — a Q&A series to bring you inside the changes soon coming to your new arts center NW 11th and Broadway.
This week we’re chatting with David Stevens, Ceramics Program and Studio manager. He’s here to tell you all about Oklahoma Contemporary’s new studio space, state-of-the-art equipment and how working with clay helps foster independence and creative thinking.
What’s your role at Oklahoma Contemporary?
I’m the manager of the Ceramics Program and Studio. I provide overall onsite management of the Ceramics Studio and lead the development of class curriculum, visiting artists and the ceramics artist-in-residency program. I’m also the in-house fabricator. My job is all things 3-D, basically.
I went back to school to get a teaching degree, and I had to take a ceramics class to graduate — and I was terrible at it. Because I’m stubborn, I got stuck in the studio and just figured it out. That’s when I got bit. I eventually went to grad school. I knew I didn’t belong there, so I worked as hard as I possibly could to live in the studio. I eventually reached out to Oklahoma Contemporary to teach kids’ summer classes.
I was really interested when my current job opened up. I’m from Oklahoma City, and I love it here. There aren’t a lot of ceramic jobs. So when the opportunity came to do this work in the place where I grew up, less than a mile from my childhood home, I got on it.
What’s the most exciting change in store for the Ceramics Program and Studio?
Space! More space, updated space. We’re located in a historic renovated warehouse adjacent to our new building. That will help us do everything with more intent. Our offerings were kind of a hodgepodge of interests at the old fairgrounds location. I’m excited about being much more intentional in our new space — with better, brand-new equipment and expanded abilities to really follow through.
Working with ceramics helps learning, creative thinking and problem solving. People who are highly successful are creative thinkers. They think outside the box and come up with unusual ways to fix problems. You don't have to be in the creative industry for that to be incredibly valuable.
What’s the value for people who want to get started or expand their skills working with ceramics?
Humans have this inert desire to create, and we facilitate that in lots of different ways. But clay is very responsive — you don't have to understand the medium to be able to do something with it. You can shut your finger in it, make a mark and say, “I did that.” So I think engaging that creative mindset and showing people what they have inside them is really important.
I have recently found myself heavily involved in DHS, working with marginalized women. For that group, clay is amazing, because it gives you control. It's giving that control to people who’ve had it ripped out of their hands. Whether it's transitional housing or on the streets, they’re living in a situation that is not healthy for anyone. They have no control over their lives. Working with clay, something so easily manipulated, gives them a chance to take some of that control back.
It also helps with learning, creative thinking and problem solving. People who are highly successful are creative thinkers. They think outside the box and come up with unusual ways to fix problems. You don't have to be in the creative industry for that to be incredibly valuable.
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