What is it like to win an NCECA Emerging Artist Award?

Each year the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) chooses 6 artists from a competitive pool of applicants as the year's "Emerging Artists" -- artists who are meant to represent the forefront of talent emerging from the field of ceramics today.  Clay Art Center was thrilled when it was announced that two artists from our fold were chosen as 2018 emerging artist awardees; our Program Manager Adam Chau and Natalia Arbelaez, who was one of our Artists-in-Residents last year and is currently one of our faculty. Each presented an image lecture at the annual conference, held in Pittsburgh, PA March 14-17, 2018, in front of a crowd of over 3000 artists, educators and clay enthusiasts. 

I asked our two to tell us what it is like to win an NCECA Emerging Artist Award, and Natalia graciously responded with the following paragraphs, which I am happy to share with you:


Being a 2018 emerging artist has been such an amazing experience. I had so many young women coming up to me and telling me how my work resonated with them, telling me of their family’s immigration stories and how they connected to my work. This alone felt so powerful as sometimes we can feel alone in our communities but this reminds me that there are many stories like our own. I also had a lot of people that came up to me to tell me that they already liked my work and now that they know the context they like it even more. My work can feel very vulnerable at times and talking about it makes me feel even more vulnerable. Knowing that I can share my stories and be embraced by the ceramic community has been so empowering.

I feel fortunate that I was awarded emerging artist with Adam Chau. To have this amazing achievement and have your friend by your side was very comforting. Sometimes the experience is a little overwhelming and self-doubt creeps up but having him there to remind me that we deserve this and how great we will do was so uplifting. Unfortunately, my own family couldn’t come to Pittsburgh with me, but my Clay Art Center family was there to support me and share in this amazing moment in my life. My favorite moment was after the emerging artists talk where all my CAC people came up to give me hugs (even some with tears in their eyes). 

I am most grateful for this experience as it has brought many opportunities but also given me a platform. While at NCECA I had the opportunity to co-lead a topical network discussion about creating a community for ceramic artists of color. I was able to connect and network with many diverse artists of color. Now with four other artists we are in the process of creating a network that will help provide mentorship opportunities, resources, and a database for ceramic artists of color. I also organized the show LAS - Latin American Status, that was well received. I was told by many how important this conversation is, how more shows like these need to happen, and how this show should travel. I’m really proud of this show and how I was able to bring light to ceramic artists who are immigrants or children of immigrants. I’m so excited for future projects to come and the attention that NCECA emerging artist brings that will help me foster them. I am also proud to announce that my work will become a part of the collection of Everson Museum of Art and I will be having a show in September at the Lacoste Gallery where I look forward to new things.

We are thrilled for Natalia, and excited to see where her clay journey will take her next!  Find out more about her work on her website.

Leigh MickelsonComment