Ken Ferguson Teaching Collection

The Kansas City Art Institute and our ceramics family and friends celebrated the opening of the Ken Ferguson Teaching Collection Room with a ceremony at 11 a.m. on March 1 at the Richard J. Stern Ceramics Building

The late artist Ken Ferguson chaired KCAI’s ceramics department for 32 years until his retirement in 1996. During this tenure, Ferguson and his colleagues, George Timock and Victor Babu, started an important study collection of student and faculty works in clay. The teaching collection includes works by many former students who were honored while undergraduates with invitations from faculty to donate special works that would remain in the collection. The study collection has since grown to more than 600 objects that have served many generations of ceramics students. The collection works as a three-dimensional teaching library for students and faculty. Pieces housed in the collection represent examples of forms, glaze surfaces, and construction methods; the work ranges from functional pottery to large-scale sculptures…and everything in between. The works in the collection have been selected upon individual criteria such as innovative use of material, variety of forming and firing methods, display of technical ability, aesthetic quality and happy accidents.  As the collection continues to grow with new additions every semester, all of the works are cataloged and labeled with an accession number.  Under the leadership of Cary Esser (Professor & Chair, Ceramics), the collection was inventoried and cataloged in 1996 with the help of students, who interviewed Ken, Victor & George to obtain information on the pieces.

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(above: The portal into the Teaching Collection. The glass has been etched with drawings from Ken’s sketchbook and his signature.)

Many alumni may remember what once filled the space where the collection room is located. The space was the faculty office, shared between Victor Babu, George Timock and Ken Ferguson. The opening of the new classroom unveiled a room that has been redesigned to showcase and properly store the objects housed within. The cabinets and drawers, lined with foam, protect the pieces from being damaged. Locking glass display cases circumference the room, providing space for pieces to be securely displayed on a rotating basis. A new flat screen television and a MacMini computer, tucked away in a specially designed cabinet, allow for easy digital presentations; without the need or hassle of projectors and laptops.

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(above: The new design provides twice the amount of display space into the lobby; providing unrestricted views of works stored inside.)

Cary Goodman (FAIA, principal of Goodman Architecture), along with input from Cary & George, designed the 400-square-foot room. Dave Haggard is the contractor and cabinetmaker. The renovation of the room was made possible through donations from the Richard Carter Family, the Marlin Miller Family Foundation, the Kanfer Family and Irma Starr (’71 ceramics), with additional gifts from the Ferguson family, contributors to the Ken Ferguson Memorial Fund and other friends. A fund-raising event at the Cube at Beco gallery in Kansas City (initiated by ceramics alumni Mike Dalena and Kim Hallisey) sold works donated by many ceramics alumni and faculty also contributed to the renovation.

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(above: Afternoon suns filters into the interior of the space. Display space was created on the tops of the cabinets for pieces too large to store inside.)

“Ken Ferguson was a giant in the world of ceramics,” said Kathleen Collins, president of KCAI. “He left an important legacy, not only as an internationally revered artist but also as a teacher who had an impact on generations of ceramic students. Many of his students have become major figures in their own right, both as artists and as educators, and many have carried on the tradition of teaching throughout the United States and around the world. The ripple effect that began with Ken is amazing and inspiring.”

The collection includes works by noteworthy alumni who have made their mark in the field, including Irving Tepper, Richard Notkin, Kurt Weiser, Akio Takamori, Irma Starr, Chris Gustin, Chris Staley, Andrew Martin, Sarah Jaeger, Josh DeWeese, Maren Kloppmann, Jesse Small, Nathan Mabry and Nobu Nishigawara. Also included in the collection are pieces by visiting artists and faculty to the ceramics department and other artists who have made generous donations, such as Patti Warashina, Howard Kottler, Robert Turner, Marilyn Lysohir, Betty Woodman, David Shaner, Peter Pinnell and James Makins.

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