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Art as Career Move: Juniata Graduate Exhibits Art

(Posted March 11, 2013)

Matt Wren ceramic piece

Matt Wren, a 2010 Juniata College graduate, has unveiled an exhibit in downtown Huntingdon. The show begins on March 8 and continues through March 30, and will include both ceramic works and paintings. It is located in the Art Space at 212 4th Street in Huntingdon. Since his graduation, Wren began working in Juniata's ceramics studio as a teaching assistant, while continuing to produce and promote his own work. Wren answered a few questions about getting into art, his exhibit and where his future will take him.

Q: Was there a defining moment when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in art? If not, how did you know?

Honestly, I never thought of it as a career option and I came to Juniata as a math secondary education POE. I thought I was good at math and I knew exactly what job I would be preparing for. But, after struggling to stay awake in class and some poor grades, I began to reconsider that choice. It wasn't like an epiphany at that time, it was more like, "I can get a bachelor's degree for painting pictures and making clay objects? Who's going to pay me to do that? Or teach that?" And there were definitely moments in my junior and senior year where I was asking myself, "what the hell am I going to do when I leave Juniata?" I never thought the answer would be to stay at Juniata. So I guess after six years in Huntingdon, that defining moment is now. Now I know for certain.


Q: What is your favorite method of creating art? Why?

During my undergraduate career I focused on painting, but clay has stolen my heart. When I took my first ceramics class my sophomore year, I had no idea what I was getting into. It challenged me then and it challenges me now; there's so much to know about technique, materials, and methods of firing and while juggling all that, you have to try to make something meaningful. That challenge feeds my competitive/stubborn nature and as my knowledge of the material and the process grows so does my wonder of its seemingly limitless potential.

Q: Can you explain your job and responsibilities at the ceramics studio? How did you get this job?

I got the job a few months after I graduated. I took the continuing education class that the ceramics studio offers and that I now teach. I was bumming it at my girlfriend's house, and I had no job, so I spent all of my time in the studio. Bethany Benson, assistant professor of art, offered me the position.

My job consists of making clay and glazes, firing kilns, assisting the students with their projects and teaching the continuing education ceramics class. But I also receive the benefit of having free access to all that the studio offers and the time to create my own work.

Q: Can you talk about your exhibit? How did you get it? What will be displayed/on sale?

It will feature a few paintings from my undergrad, but I'm most excited to show my work in clay. All of the ceramics were made in the past year, most of which has never been on display; some were fired in the Juniata's Anagama (a wood kiln) and others in Professor Emeritus Jack Troy's wood kilns. When you fire with wood it takes a team of people working around the clock for 3-5 days stoking the fire to reach temperatures at and around 2350 °F. It's an incredible process, which produces a wide variety of texture and color. Just go see it, and check out my website (matthewjwren.com) for more information about my work. The director of the Huntingdon County Arts Council, Ilona Ballreich, asked if I could do the show about a month ago so I accepted. Also, The Arts Council hired me to paint a mural on the side of their building during the summer of 2012


Q: Is this your first exhibit? If not, can you talk about past events? What is your biggest worry for this go-around? How do you market for this type of thing?

This is my first solo show. I'm not too worried but the hardest part will be figuring out how to organize all my work in such a small space. I'm used to having 90 percent of it stashed away, out of sight, so having it all in one place is a little bit overwhelming.

I've had pieces accepted into to five Juried Ceramics Exhibitions in the past year. My pots have been to Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Texas and Lancaster, Pa. Also, one of my paintings won best of show at Susquehanna University in 2011

My marketing strategy is 50 percent shameless promotion (hanging up posters, handing out postcards) and 50 percent word of mouth.

-Seth Ruggiero '14 Juniata Online Journalist

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.