Newcomb Pottery Enterprise at the GRAM

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Newcomb Pottery is considered one of the most significant collections of American art pottery of the 20th century. Each piece is critically acclaimed and highly coveted.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service has partnered with Newcomb Art Gallery at Tulane University to present the largest, most comprehensive Newcomb Pottery collection to tour the country in nearly three decades. Women, Art and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise will be on display at the Grand Rapids Art Museum from January 31 through April 17, 2016, before continuing on its nine-city national tour.

The story of the Newcomb Pottery Enterprise began just after the Civil War—a time when the American South struggled to reinvent itself. American women were beginning a long road toward suffrage and self-determination. In the decades to follow, the Newcomb Pottery Enterprise emerged as a quietly radical experiment—an unprecedented opportunity for Southern women to train as artists and support themselves financially. Working as a collective, the Enterprise produced a rich body of work—not only world renowned pottery, but also metalwork, textiles, bookbinding, jewelry and other handicrafts.

"American history is full of important creative, entrepreneurial women whose stories—and artwork—deserve to be better known," shared Dana Friis-Hansen, Grand Rapids Art Museum director and CEO. "GRAM is thrilled to be bringing this exhibition from the Smithsonian, for the sheer beauty of the objects created by the Newcomb Enterprise and to inspire today's innovators and creators."

The legacy of Newcomb is the continuing spirit of self-actualization and artistic exploration that inspires artists to this day. This exhibition offers insight into the lives of these extraordinary women who made a lasting impression on American art and industry.

"We are so pleased to be able to present this exhibition at GRAM," noted Cindy Buckner, associate curator. "I believe that the entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit of the Newcomb Pottery Enterprise will resonate with Grand Rapidians, as well as the high quality and aesthetic beauty of the objects."

The exhibition, which initially debuted in 2013 at the Newcomb Art Gallery in New Orleans before launching the national tour, features more than 125 objects including the iconic pottery as well as lesser known textiles, metalwork, jewelry, bookbinding and historical artifacts.

"Women, Art, and Social Change brings together a variety of objects created during the lifespan of the Newcomb Enterprise," said Sally Main, the exhibition's curator. "The finest examples of the pottery art form will be displayed alongside pieces that will come as a revelation to many—not only a rich variety of crafts but also photos and artifacts that breathe life into the Newcomb legacy."

Main will present a lecture at GRAM on Saturday, January 30, 2016. The lecture will provide insight into the lives of Newcomb's artists and the difficult economic and social circumstances they experienced in the post-Civil War South. Main will examine the innovative ways Newcomb College advanced women's education and opened them to the possibility of self-reliance through creativity. The lecture begins at 1 pm, with docent-led tours for members afterward.

Women Art and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise is organized by the Newcomb Art Gallery at Tulane University and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The exhibition is supported by grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Artworks.

The Grand Rapids presentation of this exhibition is made possible (as of press release date) by James and Mary Nelson, Greg and Meg Willit, Rothbury Farms, Glen Johnson and Tom Merchant, and the GRAM Exhibition Society.

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Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Art Museum.


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