ARTica hosts pottery activities to help community destress


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

ARTica Studios offers students Mini Courses to make different ceramic pieces. Students can produce anything from practical dishware to conceptual pieces.

Joanna Hou, Copy Editor

From making a fish-shaped bowl to sculpting more than 10 menorahs, former Northwestern Transportation Library Assistant Joe Ellison has created a host of ceramic work at the ARTica Studios in Norris University Center’s Underground over the last 20 years.

ARTica is an art studio in Norris offering a range of pottery classes and firing services for ceramics. While the studio mostly serves NU students and staff, it is also open to the Evanston community.

Ellison said he found the studio through a notice about Mini Courses and tried out the class. Though he didn’t make any successful pieces on his first try, he persisted and improved over time. He said the studio is one of the best-kept secrets on NU’s campus.

“It’s a way to get out of my head and just have had that time to just see what I can do with clay,” Ellison said. “There’s always something new to learn.”

Part of the reason why ARTica is unique is because NU provided studio technician Rachel “Ranch” Ward freedom to improve the pottery program. Ward started teaching pottery classes at the age of 16 and later attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. They said they fell in love with studio management and enjoy working at ARTica.

At NU, Ward takes the lead in everything from sprucing up the aesthetics of the studio to creating a more conceptual curriculum. This level of freedom is rare, Ward said.

“I have never felt so appreciated and so looked up to and that’s one of my favorite things (about ARTica),” Ward said.

ARTica ceramics offers a variety of courses for all levels of experience, Ward said. They teach Mini Courses, which feature one-time introductory classes where students fire one to two pieces of pottery. They also offer more intense six-week classes that improve sculpting and pottery skills for students. For advanced members who don’t need instruction, the studio offers a membership that provides clay and free firing services, among other advantages.

Weinberg sophomore Ben Magevney took ceramics classes in high school and has a membership with ARTica. As a computer science major, Magevney said creating pottery provides him an outlet and a chance to step away from the screen.

Magevney said he appreciates the membership program because it gives him the freedom to make whatever he wants. This quarter, he’s looking forward to creating more technical work.

Normally, the studio space can hold eight people, but because of COVID-19 policies the capacity is reduced to six. It’s been tough to house growing interest because the limited space leads to small classes, which fill up fast, Ward said.

Magevney said he can see the passion Ward and other art department workers have for their work, and he hopes that NU can support them better.

“The workers at ARTica and the head of the ceramics program are doing a great job … they just need to get the resources and attention they deserve,” Magevney said. “(NU) doesn’t even offer classes for credit, something I would love to do. They really haven’t focused a lot on ceramics.”

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