Morean Center for Clay says goodbye to St. Pete artists in residence with Second Saturday solo shows

Check out sculpture and more from these rarified AIRs.

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Emmet/Inherent Qualities

Sat., June 8. 5-9 p.m.


Found in Translation/St. Petian

Sat., July 13. 5-9 p.m.


Morean Center for Clay, 420 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg.

727-821-7162, moreanartscenter.org.

click to enlarge A crop of one of Emmett Freeman's works, which combine sculpture and photography. - Courtesy Morean Center for Clay
Courtesy Morean Center for Clay
A crop of one of Emmett Freeman's works, which combine sculpture and photography.

After two years as Artists in Residence (AIR), Emmett Freeman and Jacob Meer are ending their stints at the Morean Center for Clay (MCC) and moving on, but not before each presents his work in a solo exhibit at the MCC this Saturday, June 8. Two other artists, Allynda Ho and Katie Kearns are ending their one-year residencies with solo exhibits opening July 13. 

Freeman and Meer have spent their last two years learning, teaching, and experiencing life as  full-time artists. 

“As an AIR I’ve been able to experience ‘affordable loss,’” Freeman, 23, said. “It enables some risk-taking that’s hard to afford when you‘re worried about paying the bills.”

Originally from New England, where he earned his BFA, Freeman will head to Allentown, PA where he plans to open a home studio and teach. 

“This has been a very positive experience,” said Freeman. “I want to teach and keep making art.”

Emmett, Freeman’s capstone show, features both sculpture and photography that “explores vulnerability... a self-portrait process of emotion and masks.” 

Jacob Meer, 28, a Midwesterner from Wisconsin, was drawn to the Morean because of its reputation in the pottery world. 

 “It’s the largest working pottery in the Southeast, including one of the largest wood-fired kilns around,” Meer said. “I wanted to use the wood-kiln for anagama, a Japanese-style ceramic that involves wood-ash and intense color and that kiln heats to 2,250 degrees.”

Meer, who enjoys making “functional ware,” says he likes to make art accessible. “Art that can be used can be the first step into the art world,” he said. “That’s because you’re actually using a piece of art.”

Titled Inherent Qualities, Meer’s solo exhibit, features the unusual glazes on pitchers and other utilitarian objects he obtains from the wood-fired kiln.  

“I’ve been doing ceramics since I was 14,” said Meer. “I apprenticed with Simon Levin, and heard about the Morean at a show at Kansas State University… everyone said it’s a great pottery center.”

With his recent studio experience, Meer is off to Edina, MN near Minneapolis, where he will be head of ceramic art at the Edina Art Center. He intends to continue his experiments into clay recipes that work with his unique wood-fired glazes.             

As AIRs, both Meer and Freeman taught classes at the MCC and were responsible for maintaining a part of the MCC in exchange for 24-hour studio access, free firings and discounts on clay and other materials. Now these solo showcases display the work they’ve done at the MCC, and offer a glimpse into their futures as successful, full-time potters. 

Heather Tinnaro, assistant to the director at the MCC, said there’s no exclusivity for the AIR program, which is advertised in professional publications for ceramic arts.

“One of our AIRs for the upcoming year is from Korea,” said Tinnaro. “We don’t require the artist be from Florida, but we do prefer a BFA, someone dedicated. We just want to encourage artists expressing themselves in new and interesting ways.”

The other capstone shows for the AIRs leaving after their first year of residency will showcase the works of Allynda Ho, from Gainesville, and Katie Kearns, St. Petersburg.

Ho says her exit show, Found in Translation, features family-inspired pieces exploring culture and community.

“The photos show disposable bowls of food on newspaper,” she explained. “We are a very large Vietnamese family, so we use disposable ware so cleanup is easier.”

The throwaway aspect inspires Ho, 24, to create more permanent ceramics with floral themes that express the art of her Asian heritage. 

“I also discovered I like art administration,” she added.

Katie Kearns, a local St. Petersburg resident, will explore her hometown in her final show, titled St. Petian, with a look at pieces that evoke her memories of St. Pete as the city morphs around her with high-rises and new construction on every corner.

 For Kearns, the most memorable experience of her year was the Annual Florida Heat Surface event that brought artists from everywhere.

 “It was a week full of conversations, discussions, knowledge and realizing that these people I admire were once in the same position as I am, is so inspiring,” said Kearns. 

 Not only did the AIRs continue to develop as ceramicists, they’ll also take away the valuable skills that come with running a studio. We wish them well.

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