In the spring of 1957, Chinese-born ceramic artist Katherine Po-Yu Choy (1927-1958), a rising talent in the field of American studio art pottery, gathered a small group of passionate like-minded artists in the working class New York City suburb of Port Chester, New York. Under Choy’s leadership this group founded the “Clay Art Center for Advanced Study in Ceramics and Sculpture”―known more familiarly then and now as simply Clay Art Center―a cooperative studio dedicated to creative ceramic art.
Clay Art Center was one of the first studio spaces devoted solely to the study and practice of artistic ceramics in the United States. Buoyed by Choy’s growing celebrity for her boundary-pushing sculptural clay vessels, Clay Art Center’s reputation quickly grew among American potters. Meanwhile its artists put down roots in the communities of Port Chester and neighboring Greenwich, Connecticut.
The ceramic art world and Clay Art Center community were rocked by Choy’s unexpected death in 1958 at the young age of 30, less than a year after the center was founded. However, in the decades that followed Clay Art Center’s mission endured thanks to the oversight of Choy’s co-founder, Japanese-American potter Henry Okamoto (1922-1988). Today, Clay Art Center is the largest and most active ceramic facility in the tristate area and a nationally recognized non-profit dedicated to the advancement and practice of ceramic art. Meanwhile, Katherine Choy’s pioneering ceramic works―which in 1958 were the subject of two major retrospective memorial exhibitions―continue to find resonance among potters and scholars of American studio pottery.
Featuring ceramic works and archival material drawn from Clay Art Center’s collections, Radical Pots & Cooperative Hands will feature a number of Katherine Choy’s dynamic, genre-defining ceramic pots presented alongside letters, photographs and archival material that tell the story of Clay Art Center’s remarkable presence in the mid-century artistic community of New York and southeastern Connecticut.
Katherine Choy Culture Trip
Free Collection & Exhibition Visit
Enjoy a perfect day trip on Wednesdays for the duration of the exhibition Radical Pots & Cooperative Hands, featuring works and archival items on loan from Clay Art Center collection. Start your day at Clay Art Center Gallery at 11:30 am for a FREE Guided Exhibition and Studio Tour including their permanent Katherine Choy collection. Make the Greenwich Historical Society your second stop for a FREE self-guided visit to our exhibition. Both locations are within 15 minutes drive from each other and easily accessible by car or Metro North.
No appointment necessary
Programs & Events
Treasures from the Museum Collection: Ceramics by Leon Volkmar
Coinciding with the exhibition Radical Pots & Cooperative Hands: Katherine Choy and Clay Art Center, visitors to the Greenwich Historical Society’s Permanent Collections Gallery can view a complementary installation of ceramic vessels by artist Leon Gambetta Volkmar (1879-1959). Working out of Bedford, New York, at a pottery studio he named Durant Kilns, Volkmar produced artistic clay vessels with vibrant glaze surfaces inspired by ancient Egyptian and Persian wares. Volkmar was a friend of artist Elmer Livingston MacRae, and in the 1910s and ‘20s his distinctive vases could often be seen in the Bush-Holley House, forming the base for floral arrangements designed by Constant Holley MacRae. Volkmar’s distinctive vessels were frequently present in works by artists of the Cos Cob art colony. In the small oil painting The Mantel Piece (1912), now part of the Greenwich Historical Society Museum Collection, painter Childe Hassam depicted his wife, Maude Hassam, standing in the first–floor bedroom of the Bush-Holley House. A striking aubergine vase by Volkmar is visible on the fireplace mantel, holding an arrangement of orange flowers.
In the News
Radical Pots & Cooperative Hands: Katherine Choy and Clay Art Center has been
organized by the Greenwich Historical Society in collaboration with Clay Art Center.
Curated by Maggie Dimock, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Greenwich Historical Society.
The exhibition is generously supported by Josie Merck.