In the Loop
Alumni News : Jun 18, 2018

UF alumna starts a full-time position at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts

By Bismarie Plasencia (BSA ‘19)

Paige Ward (MFA '17) is a UF ceramics alumna and recently completed her residency at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. After this year long residency, the Arrowmont School of Arts has offered her a full-time position as Administrative Support Coordinator in the departments of marketing and development. Ward started this position on May 28, 2018. This will be the first time she will hold a full-time position like this one.

How did UF prepare you for your residency? 

Well, I think that UF prepared me in many ways for the residency. Mostly through the teaching experience that I gained at UF and the practice that I got talking about my work. Also, just the time to work on my own work was really valuable. There were times in grad school that I thought that I didn’t have very much time, but I realize now that I had all the time in the world. Even if I wasn’t in my studio making, almost every moment of grad school was giving me time to research and reflect on my work without any other distractions.

How was your residency experience?

I really enjoyed the residency program at Arrowmont. It was a little bit more intense to come right into after grad school than I imagined, but I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the time and the space to work on my own work as well as the opportunity and time to travel to several colleges and universities in the region to talk with current college students. I also enjoyed the experience that I got in teaching people across the age spectrum from young children to senior adults.  Finally, I think that one of the most valuable things about the residency was the comradery that I had with my fellow residents. It was really nice to live and work in such close proximity to other young artists who are in the same stage of their careers. I really enjoyed our conversations. Also, being at Arrowmont was just pretty magical. It is like an epicenter for craft in the southeast region of the US and there are so many different people that I had the opportunity to meet here during my residency.

What UF professors inspired you?

Of course! The faculty in ceramics was a constant support—Nan Smith, Linda Arbuckle, and Anna C. Holcombe—especially Nan Smith. She was the chair of my thesis committee and she truly did take me under her wing. She was always available for help and was a huge source of encouragement for me. I think Linda really tried to teach me to lighten up and just have fun. I remember one semester she told me not even to work with ceramics (and I was in the ceramics program). That was the semester that I built a clubhouse in my studio. Linda was just so good at knowing exactly what to say at the right moment. Anna always was pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and was always willing to give professional tips. Other faculty who I really admired and was inspired by was Lisa Iglesias in the painting and drawing department. Studio visits with Lisa always left me super pumped up and encouraged. She made me think that I could build anything. Joyce Tsai was the modern art history professor at the time I was at UF. I always admired her intellect but also her professionalism. I would also say the same about Jaime Ahlberg in the philosophy department. She was so professional and clear about her expectations. She always presented the content from an unbiased place and she was always available to talk further and recommend further readings during her office hours. There were so many others…

What are you most excited for in this position?

I would say that I am most excited about what I am also the most nervous about. I am excited to be out of my comfort zone and learning a new skillset on the arts administration side of things, but I am also nervous about that at the same time. As the Administrative Support Coordinator, I will get to help support the work that happens in marketing and development. I am excited to learn all about where the money comes from to make organizations like Arrowmont run. I am excited about getting to stay connected to the ceramics and art field through this role at Arrowmont. I just enjoy being around the energy that is created here. I am also excited because I like connecting people, and I think in this role I can help connect people and continue to build relationships with people in the arts. One of my dreams is to build a program one day. I don’t know exactly what that program will be, but I hope that all of my experiences in different areas in the arts will help equip me with what it will take to build the program. I know I am still relatively young, but as I have now been in the ceramics field for a short 11 years now, I have had the opportunity to make some awesome relationships with people from all of the institutions that I have been able to be a part of. The people we meet are people we will know for a lifetime. At Arrowmont it is common for me to meet someone from across the country who knows someone I know. I feel like I know clay people in almost every state. This is what I love about Arrowmont and Anderson Ranch (another art center I got to be a part of as an intern).

What is some advice you could give to our current, ceramics students?

Work hard on your own work. Take good pictures and make a good website. Apply to shows, residencies, internships and JUST SHOW UP. Go put yourself out there in the field. A mentor of mine once told me that there are two important things to remember for success: #1 the excellence of your work, and #2 who you know. So just get out there and put a face with your work and your name. Also be open to opportunities… even the ones that you may not have imagined doing. I am learning that when I am open, I never know where something is going to lead me and how it will influence what I do in the future.

How has life been post-graduation?

Life post-graduation has been busy. I finished the residency and now I am starting a full-time job. I am giving myself a little time as I transition into this new role before I start working on my next piece. I have ideas rolling, but they will just stay in my sketchbook for a bit. I currently have a solo show up at my undergraduate alma mater, Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. The show is called I Love to Tell the Story. The show will be up until September. I will visit Jackson in September to give a lecture and do a workshop as a visiting artist. In July, I will travel to Snowmass Village, Colorado, to teach a week long kid’s workshop called It Takes A Village at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. So as you can see life post-graduation has been a little busy. I think it will continue to be busy, but I am thankful to be busy. I am blessed that I can continue to work in the field that I love.

What is your favorite piece you have created and why?

Man! That is a big question! I really love the pieces that I created that were installed in abandoned houses… Those were, Keep On the Sunny Side and Canned Home. I like those because I feel like they were really getting at what I was trying to communicate about the importance of the home and family. They both involved multiples which I love and they were installed in old and abandoned house which I love. I also like the scale of the work and how they took over an entire space.

But recently, I think that my favorite piece has been Do Not Fear. Rejoice! It consists of a life-size concrete pillow that is supporting miniature scaffolding. I like it for several reasons. First, I like it formally. I like the tension that is created in the precarious scaffolding supported by thin sticks. Second, I enjoy it practically because it is a very methodical process to create the grid-like cubes which is very parallel to my love of making ceramic multiples. It is also structured but gives me the freedom to be spontaneous in the space. I feel as if I am just playing just like when I built tree houses as a child. The grid-like scaffolding cubes are structured and act as building blocks to build a bigger piece that is more organic. Third, I like it because I feel like I am on the cusp with this piece of figuring out how to effectively communicate what I am trying to say. At one point I think it talks about the tenuousness, transience and fragility of our existence, but it also at the same time communicates aspects of faith. According to the Bible, Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I think that somehow the tenuous structure of that scaffolding is on the verge of beginning to communicate that. Then supporting the whole structure is the concrete pillow—God or Christ, the Cornerstone.