By Emily Rentaria
The summer of 2017 helped gain notoriety for St. John’s Pottery. Two recipients received a cumulative grant of $51,500 from the Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist Program as St. John’s Outdoor University student and St. John’s Pottery apprenticeship programs each earned $175, 975 from the Mildred and Bernard Funds.
The department’s latest award is from the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation of $500,000 for the foundation of the Mary Griggs Burke Fellowship for Japanese Artists and Apprentices—the largest fund ever given to the department as well for the entirety of SJU’s visual arts program.
According to SJU, the fellowship program offers financial support essential to generating new research and study opportunities strictly for students interested in furthering Japanese visual culture. It will allow the university to host Japanese
students and let the apprentices of the Director and Artist-in-Residence at the St. John’s Pottery, Richard Bresnahan study in Japan.
“For nearly 40 years, this studio has offered apprenticeships and artist residencies to U.S.-based artists interested in the deep history of Japanese ceramic art,” Bresnahan said in a statement. “This generous gift expands that to provide new opportunities for Japanese emerging artists to visit SJU and carry that tradition forward.”
Bresnahan met Mary Griggs Burke when he was 23 whilst in Japan, under the apprenticeship of Nakazato Takashi, the “13th-generation [familial] National Living Treasure [potter.]” She funded a research grant which allowed him to spend more time in Japan.
Keeping with Burke’s legacy as a nature conservationist, Bresnahan is keen on environmental sustainability and consciousness.
“Part of Richard’s work is seeing which older practices are relevant and useful,” said Ryan Kutter, Studio Manager at the St. John’s Pottery.
One such technique is his use of local plant materials, a more traditional practice, instead of toxic chemical applications for glaze coloring. Bresnahan also works with SJU nationally famed Johanna wood-burning kiln, instead of an electric furnace.
Although the grants are offered only for Artists-in Residence, CSB/SJU students recognize the importance of celebrating these awards to the programs.
“This is a reassurance [to artists and the community] that people view [(pottery) art] positively, because if you’re willing to give half a million dollars to something, you believe in it,” Nate Saunders, a sophomore art major said.