Q&A with PSU laureate Christopher Staley
This month, ceramic artist and educator Christopher Staley begins his duties as Penn State laureate for 2012-13. Staley is a distinguished professor of art in the College of Arts and Architecture. Established in 2008, the position of the Penn State laureate is filled by a full-time faculty member in the humanities or the arts who is assigned half-time, for one academic year, to bring an enhanced level of social, cultural, artistic, and human perspective and awareness to a broad array of audiences.
Under Staley’s leadership, the ceramics graduate program at Penn State has been ranked No. 10 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. He has had numerous one-person exhibitions across the United States. During his laureate year, he plans to develop a series of talks and presentations on “Art and Life: Where They Intersect,” drawing from his 30 years of experience as a ceramic artist and educator. He shared with Town&Gown some of his thoughts on his new role as laureate and what the position means to him.
T&G: What has been your greatest accomplishment throughout your 30 years of experience as a ceramic artist and educator?
Staley: Having had the opportunity to work with so many engaged and talented students. Also, to have been able to shape clay from the earth and make my thoughts and feelings real with my hands.
T&G: What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned during your 30 years of experience as a ceramic artist and educator?
Staley: The most valuable thing I learned is the power of a good question and the importance of being an attentive listener.
T&G: What does being named Penn State’s laureate for 2012-13 mean to you?
Staley: Being named the Penn State laureate is a very special opportunity to be an advocate for the arts. This position allows me to share poignant insights about the relationship between art and life.
T&G: How do you plan to fulfill your duties as this year’s laureate?
Staley: In several ways. With the help of artist Cody Goddard and others, I am producing approximately 30 short videos on a myriad of topics relating to art and life. I will be visiting as many of the commonwealth campuses as possible to give talks and attend classes to lead discussions as well as give hands-on demonstrations of me working with clay. Also, give local talks and lead workshops to a wide range of audiences.
T&G: Could you tell us a little bit about your upcoming presentation series on “Art and Life?”
Staley: The series of presentations will cover a wide range of topics, some of which are “How do you grade art?” “Can you teach creativity?” “What role does gender play in being an artist?” “How process saves us from the poverty of our intentions.”
T&G: Is there anything else you would you like to share with our readers?
Staley: To remember that the greatest work of art that we all create as human beings are the lives we live. That I am really excited about the possibilities for collaboration with others in the laureate position. Already I have had tremendous support from people at the university from Graeme Sullivan, the director of the School of Visual Arts, to Blannie Bowen, vice provost at Penn State, and Nancy Herron, vice president for commonwealth campuses, just to name a few. Lastly, art is really a creative response to the world we live in. The more we lean into the wonders of life, the richer our lives will be. With this thought in mind, the laureate position is just an opportunity to lean into life and art together!