Pot sale benefits art department students
By Kelsey Gobroski
Sun Star Reporter
The UAF Art Department hosted a ceramics sale fundraiser last week for a memorial scholarship that will benefit art students. The scholarship is in memory of Tom Rohr, who died last summer in Eugene, OR of a heart attack at 45.
“Tom was very much about sharing what he did … and he would want that to continue,” said Teresa Shannon, a former student of Rohr’s who is organizing the fund with Karen Foote.
More than 100 pieces of ceramic artwork decorated the UAF Art Gallery for the auction on May 28. About 50 national and local potters and students created pots, purses, baskets, and jars for the fundraiser. Some artists also volunteered at the event.
A poster at the entrance explained Rohr’s connection to UAF. He worked in Fairbanks from 1995 to 1997, said the art department’s chair, Todd Sherman. Rohr taught many core ceramics classes and a wood firing class. His undergraduate degree was from the University of Michigan, and his graduate degree from Louisiana State University, Sherman said.
Rohr focused on making functional pieces to emphasize the importance of eating communally, Shannon said. He also worked with local potters and other artists.
About 30 people browsed through the pieces at the beginning of the auction, including Paul and Kathy Mallory, who were visiting from Girdwood. They bid on a couple of pieces, and found “tremendous variety,” said Paul Mallory.
Their daughter Marianna, 12, said she approved of the piece her mother had bid on. “I have to like it if my mom’s putting it on her desk,” she said.
Before the auction, Rohr’s former students and colleagues congregated at the anagama wood kiln to fire their pieces, Shannon said. The kiln is located at the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. At the auction, pictures of the kiln and past firings hung on the gallery walls behind the ceramic pieces.
Artists created the scholarship pieces using the wood kiln because Rohr loved the kiln, Shannon said. “While he was here, we fired the kiln a lot,” she said. The kiln firing is a three-day community event, she said. “Tom was very much about community — friends — collaborating, and wood firing is a very big collaboration.”
Wood kilns produce a less standard product than common electric kiln, Shannon said. She said painters often tease ceramics students about the consistent amount of browns the kiln churns out, but she said she sees variety in the browns.
“It gives this sort of natural earthy surface,” she said, comparing the electric kiln to a microwave and the wood kiln to a grill. Sherman said the process is unpredictable, and each wood kiln is different. The kiln is like a wood stove that can heat up to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, Shannon said.
The auction raised $6,000, increasing the scholarship fund to $10,000, Sherman said.
Several more fundraisers are scheduled.