In 1911, the Department of Manual Arts was constituted within the College of Letters and Science, courses in drafting and mechanical drawing were taught and a course in pottery was described but wasn’t taught until the fall semester of 1912 by William Harrison Varnum. The course was described as “The study of clay as a medium of expression on the Public Schools” and a “complete Summer Session” was to be offered. Varnum taught pottery along with a metals course until 1915 when Della Wilson joined the faculty and taught the pottery courses until her retirement in 1952. During her tenure the clay studio moved from basement to basement, in what is now Radio Hall, Birge and Bascom Halls and in the 1930’s to the basement of The School of Education Building. With the opening of the Humanities Building in 1969 all of the undergraduate classes moved to the seventh floor while graduate ceramics took over the School of Education basement.
From 1951-1977 Harvey K. Littleton taught ceramics until founding the Paoli Clay Company and the nation’s first university-based studio program in glass art. Wayne Taylor was hired in 1963 and later transitioned to sculpture. Shortly after, Don Reitz was hired and taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison ceramics program from 1962 to 1988. In 1974, Reitz held the position of president of NCECA; it was held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bruce Breckenridge taught concurrent with Don Reitz from 1969-2006. In 1969, the program moved into the newly constructed Humanities Building designed by Chicago architect, Harry Weese. Elaine Scheer was hired in 1988 as a lecturer and in 1990 as Assistant Professor. In 1995, she transitioned to undergraduate chair. She gradually stopped working in clay and transitioned into sculpture, prints and painting. In 2006, Paul Sacaridiz began teaching in the ceramics program. In 2009, Sacaridiz oversaw the ceramics program relocation into new state-of-the-art studios in the renovated Art Lofts building next to the Kohl Center. In 2014 Paul became Chair of the Art Department and President-elect of NCECA. In 2012, Gerit Grimm joined the ceramics program.
VISITING ARTISTS- Paul Soldner, Richard Shaw, Jim Melchert, David Fable, Peter Gourfain, Peter Volkus, Win Byers, Sandra Byers, Karen Terpstra, Richard Notkin, Chris Antemann, Christa Assad, Kristen Morgin, Jessica Jackson Hutchins
ALUMNI – Chris Davis Benavides, David Dahlquist, Karen Koblitz, Michael Lugard, Ron Mazzanowsky
FORMER FACULTY- Bob Arnesson, Doug Baldwin, Bruce Breckenridge, Bruce Howdle, Harvey Littleton, Don Reitz, Richard Shaw, Elaine Scheer, Toshiko Takaezu , Wayne Taylor, Richard Burkett