Celebrating 20 years of Our Residency Program

A reason to celebrate!


This year marks the 20th anniversary of Clay Art Center’s nationally recognized artist-in-residence program, started in 1998 by Director Emeritus Reena Kashyap.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of our donors, the past two decades have seen 45 young artists get the chance to launch their careers and find their voices.

Our Residency program, which commences each year in September, is uniquely designed for emerging artists who need time and space to develop their voices. Residents gain invaluable experience working in a community environment, teaching classes, sharing their technical knowledge and expertise, and managing many jobs around the studio. Through a competitive process, these artists come to Port Chester from across the country and are now thriving in their careers around the globe.

The success of the Residency program wouldn’t be possible without the immense support from donors – and for that, we’re raising a special glass at our annual gala this year.

Here’s to 20 more years!

Here’s a look at the impact the program had on some past residents:

Steve Lee (2001-2002)

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“Clay Art Center was pivotal in my artistic and personal growth. When I arrived, I was at a comfortable but uninspired point with my work and was afraid to make dramatic changes. Working at the Clay Art Center provided me with time and space to pursue new ideas in an environment that was supportive to taking those risks. It was an important experience in my growth as an artist.”

Steve Lee is Executive Director at Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana

Caitlin Brown (2010-2011, Rittenberg Fellowship 2011-2012, CAC Program Manager 2012-2015)

“My time at CAC made an enormous impact on my life- during and since. I learned so much, personal life experiences aside, and I wouldn't be where I am today without it. I am grateful every day for what I learned there and for things I was able to take away from the experience (including Cory- a gift for which I have no words).”

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  • Director and Chief Curator Cohen Gallery, Alfred, NY 2015-2016

  • Museum Assistant Alfred Ceramic Art Museum 2015-2016

  • Operations and Programs Manager Alfred Ceramic Art Museum 2016-present

  • Adjunct Faculty: Foundations, Professional Practices, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University 2016-present

  • Alfred Summer Ceramics Workshop presenter: Professional Practices; the Business of Art 2018

  • Coordinator/ facilitator of the monthly Alfred Art Walk, Alfred, NY 2017-present

  • Village Trustee, Alfred, NY 2018-present

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Ron Geibel (2013-2014)

Ron is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. In summer 2019 he will begin a residency at the European Ceramic Work Center in Oisterwijk, Netherlands.


Heather Houston (2005-2006)

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“One of the highlights for me is that as a direct result of my resident show at CAC, my work was exposed to Judith Schwartz and I was included in her book and exhibition Confrontational Clay. Since my residency, I have remained engaged at Clay Art Center as a teacher and exhibiting artist. Additionally, I have been teaching 11 years at Silvermine Arts Center and for 8 years I was their studio manager. Additionally, I am a Silvermine Guild Member, have had 3 residencies at Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, including one internship and one Kiln God residency (fully funded), received a 2010 New Canaan Community Foundation Grant for residency at Shakerag Workshops and have had many opportunities to assist and learn from visiting artists at Clay Art Center, Silvermine, and Shakerag Workshops, advancing my professional development.”

Mari Ogihara (2006-2007)

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“I am proud of the broad range of domestic and international residencies since completing my very first at Clay Art Center. The culturally diverse artist community at Clay Art Center awakened me to challenge learning clay in various places such as France, Mexico, Brazil, Japan and currently in Southeast Asia. This summer I was invited to teach a workshop on my figurative sculptures at Shilaroo Project in Himachal Pradesh, India. I have spent the past five weeks in India absorbing the environment and preparing artwork for an exhibition in New Delhi slated for Jan 2019. It is incredibly empowering to know that my skills as an artist & teacher has value and credibility across the world. I have yet to see and learn so much more. Every opportunity and success I have had as a professional artist can be traced back to Clay Art Center! For this I am truly grateful.”

Max Seinfeld (2015-2016)

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Since Max completed his residency at the Clay Art Center in 2017 he has maintained a full-time studio practice in a small private studio he built in Danbury, Connecticut. Max continues to teach private lessons, workshops, and exhibits nationally and internationally. Recently Max returned from teaching and exhibiting at the House of Art and Design in the Central Region of Denmark and will partake in the Pentaculum Residency at Arrowmont School of Crafts this winter.


Jon McMillan (2009-2010)

Jon is currently an Associate Professor of Ceramics and Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he won the Grellet Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching last year.


Michelle Tobia (2004-2005)

“After finishing graduate school at Ohio University in 2004, I was looking for a place that would allow me to continue to develop and strengthen my ideas and work. As I had been in the academic environment for 10 years, I thought it would be best to see how life as a ceramic artist was outside of what I knew. I applied to and was accepted at several residencies. I was a resident and studio manager at the Clay Art Center from 2004-05. I chose the Clay Art Center because of how supportive it was to emerging ceramic artists and more importantly because of the people there and its strong sense of community. It was also close to my family in Pennsylvania whom I had lived a great distance away from for quite some time beforehand…it felt good to be back on the east coast.

Kelli Damron was the education coordinator and John Chwekun was the other resident artist with me for that year. We had many good times, heart -to-heart talks, and lots of laughs. Memories are of late night kiln firings, afternoon tea, talk of going non-for-profit, Reena’s homemade Indian food, and fun working in the studio.

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The Clay Art Center is an amazing place where there is always something happening, where you know someone will give you a smile and ask how you are, and where people from all different ages and walks of life cross paths and intersect based on their interest in clay. I learned so much. I am thankful for the patience everyone (especially Reena) had with me while I was there as I continued to try to understand who I was as an artist and what environment best suited my future goals. That is what was so meaningful about my experience and that I didn’t really realize at the time- that people were genuinely interested in you as a person and had the wisdom to accept you exactly as you were at that time.

I earned my BS in Human Development and Family Studies and Early Childhood Education (1996) from the Pennsylvania State University, my BFA in Ceramics (2001) from The Kansas City Art Institute, and my MFA in Ceramics (2004) from Ohio University. In 2004-5, I was a resident artist at the Clay Art Center in New York and in 2006, a Visiting Lecturer in Ceramics at the University of Wisconsin Madison. In 2005 and again in 2008, I spent a month making work at the International Ceramics Studio in Kecskemet, Hungary. In 2006, I accepted an Assistant Professor of Art position at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and taught Ceramics and 3D Design until 2010. With the birth of my daughter in 2012, I took some time off but am back in the studio making and exhibiting work. After growing up and living outside Philadelphia for most of my life, I moved to the West Coast with my family in 2017. I live and work in Sherwood, Oregon.”

Mike Stumbras (2012-2013)

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“In terms of memorable experiences as a studio potter, my time as a resident at the Clay Art Center in 2012-2013 was one of the best that I’ve had. The Clay Art Center provided me with guided and meaningful teaching opportunities, both for dedicated ceramics students and in unparalleled community outreach programs. The Clay Art Center continues to serve as an exemplary nonprofit arts institution with an excellence in affordable ceramic arts education, progressive and cutting edge gallery programming, and an unmatched dedication to young emerging artists in the field.

The artist residency at the Clay Art Center was an invaluable experience that helped me secure a highly sought after teaching position and prepared me for continued development in the field of studio ceramics. It is not a surprise to me that there are innumerable former residents and employees of the Clay Art Center that are held in extremely high regard in the ceramics community including career artists, esteemed college professors, and NCECA emerging artists. Resident Artists are afforded the ability to work closely with world class visiting artists and receive benefits from individual critiques and exhibitions.

The Clay Art Center equipped me with the tools for professional development, personal artistic growth, and a sense of community that prepared me for a sometimes difficult and competitive career in the arts.

I experienced a meaningful camaraderie with my colleagues that has led to friendships that I continue to maintain, and I have watched former resident artists and employees grow to become leaders in the ceramic arts.

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In particular, Executive Director Leigh Taylor Mickelson was incredibly welcoming and understanding of the professional obstacles involved with being a young artist. I felt that I was treated with respect and compassion in all aspects of my reasonably assigned duties as well as in my studio practice. I remember that when Port Chester was hit hard by hurricane Sandy: Leigh kept the studio open so that members and artists were welcome to use electricity to charge their phones, cook communal dinners, and seek shelter. Leigh continues to serve as an involved member in the greater studio arts community, advocating for artists and community programs even outside of Port Chester which have tangibly improved the field as a whole.

Community outreach programming provided me with the ability to share a love of ceramics with those who had virtually no access arts education in local schools and provided me with a way to feel meaningfully socially involved. I strongly believe that it is disingenuous to measure the worth of an institution by the value it provides to its members and employees instead of its value to the community at large; but I feel that the Clay Art Center excels at both.

As a resident artist, I saw a community that fostered advancement for all participants, both within the beautiful muraled walls of the Clay Art Center, and outside of it. The people that I met not only encouraged me to achieve, but actively worked to help me in my goals as an artist, even many years later. Of the people that I look forward to seeing at annual conferences and in my travels, a great number will always have a close relationship with the CAC.

The Clay Art Center served as a springboard for professional opportunity and personal growth for me. But more than this, I strongly believe that—as composed of talented, intelligent, and well-meaning staff— The Clay Art Center serves as the finest example of what an arts nonprofit should aspire to. I say this especially because I’ve seen what other places are like firsthand in the time since I left.”

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Shanna Fliegel (2008-2009)

“The Clay Art Center welcomed me with open arms. I fondly remember dinners in the kitchen upstairs, and often reflect on my relationships with the families that lived across the street. Everyday interactions with members and students further instilled my passion for teaching and lead me to a variety of positions in education. Beyond the classroom, I am also grateful for the time in the studios at CAC, which afforded me the opportunity to develop multiple bodies of work. Precious time and lifelong relationships continue to support my pursuits in ceramics.”

Shanna Fliegel is currently a full time ceramics instructor at Governor's Academy in Byfield, Mass, 30 miles north of Boston.

Jeffrey Schwarz (2011-2012)

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“Living in NYC changed me. I was completely inspired by and changed by the city. As soon as I left my apartment in the morning I was bombarded with imagery of all kinds and this would come to influence and change my work. The residency at CAC afforded me time to digest my new environment and allowed the changes to enter my work. From the beginning I recognized that I had been given was a privilege of time and resources. After leaving the residency I had the courage to establish a new studio in Brooklyn. Immediately I was able to work and have studio visits. As a result opportunities came, most notably a group exhibition at the Andrew Edlin Gallery, exhibiting work during Art Basel in Miami, showing at Texas Contemporary, having two solo exhibitions and having my work published in New American Painting. The year I spent at CAC became an important stepping stone in my career and my work.”

Kelley Donahue (2015-2016)

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"As a ceramic artist I’ve often been overwhelmed by a feeling of urgency and stress about how and where I will be able to make and fire my work. My final semester of grad school as I prepared to graduate, I was reeling from cerebral energy and complex emotion but was uncertain how I could use that energy without access to a studio or resources to set up my own studio. Receiving the fellowship residency at the CAC was an absolute answer to my wishes and it allowed me to focus on integrating everything I had just experienced getting my MFA. It was an important time of discovering how my academic education could find its place within my art practice. This incredibly generous gift of time and space to work is what allowed me to maintain momentum and continue nourishing my ambition in making the work I’ve made over the last 4 years. The work I was able to make during my time at CAC has been displayed in solo shows at T+H Gallery in Boston, Mainline Art Center in Haverford, PA, and in group shows at the Robert Miller Gallery in Chelsea, NYC, Shenzhen Printmaking Museum in China, Distillery Gallery in Boston and at the Tang Contemporary Art Center in Beijing. The fellowship was an absolutely integral part of the creative movement and career progress I’ve been met with over the past 4 years and for this I am extremely grateful."

Gabby Sia (2013-2014)


“The year-long fellowship was pivotal to my career as an art educator.

I entered my year as a CAC fellow with dual degrees in Art Education and Ceramics.

Under the leadership of our former Community Arts Director, Ariel Edwards, I took on more teaching opportunities than I had ever imagined I would. In doing so, I developed the ability to make any space an art space, something I later discovered to be a crucial skill in our current educational climate. It is a point of pride to say that I have taught all ages, pre-k all the way up, and absolutely adore working with adolescents to this day.

As for my professional practice, the fellowship granted me the space, physically and mentally, to simply play. After graduating from a rigorous art program, it was a welcome change of pace to re-discover clay through an entirely different lens, with a highly supportive of practicing artists within arm’s reach. That sense of community directly translates into my Brunswick studio; I encourage my students to learn from one another, give advice when they can, and observe as much as possible.”

Natalia Arbelaez (2016-2017)

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“Coming to Clay Art Center was a really important time in my work. I had just been a year out from grad school and was ready for challenge and change. Clay Art Center provided me with focused time and space which can be difficult to navigate after graduating. The community is one of the most special parts about Clay Art Center and an invaluable asset. Being in such a nurturing environment allowed me to visit personal and vulnerable narratives in my work. With my residency coming to an end I created a full new body of work for my solo show titled “Stories of My Histories” that highlighted my families stories of immigration, death, motherhood, and culture. This body of work was a changing point in my career and from this series I went on to be featured in Hi Fructose, Upper Playground, and ArtAxis. I also went on to be recognized as a NCECA 2018 Emerging Artist and feel that my time and work at Clay Art Center played a pivotal role. Clay Art Center’s residency has helped me create a pathway that has had been a fruitful journey. I’m currently an Artist-In-Residence at the Harvard Ceramics Program at Harvard University where I’m continuing my research of Latin American art and history.”

Elina Toperman (2007-2008)

“Today I teach sculpture and ceramics at the Avni Institute of Art and Design and Binyamini Center for Contemporary Ceramics.

I enjoy it very much. Of course, the experience I gained during my stay at CAC helped me to start teaching in Israel.


Benyamini Center is a similar school in the structure and its activity to CAC. There are annual courses, short workshops, lectures, guest Artists, gallery for an exhibitions and one-year residency opportunity for 3 artists that have BFA in ceramics design. This 3 Artists are assisting the studio during the year, and in the end of the year exhibit their work in the gallery.

The place is lively and successful.

I teach a sculpture course there to groups of advanced students and accompany them in a final project for an artist's certificate.”

Andrew Coombs (2008-2010)


“The Artist in Residence program gave me the opportunity to both continue making my artwork after graduate school and develop my skills as a teacher. The value of the opportunity to work in a community of brilliant colleagues (who became life-long friends) is immeasurable. And it was directly through these professional connections that I began my career in higher education as an Adjunct Professor and Studio Tech at the University of South Carolina, which led me to my current position as Professor of Art at Polk State College. The CAC opened doors for me and set me on my way to achieving my professional goals.”