Meet The Honorees

The Benefit Committee is planning a fun-filled evening to mark this historic milestone. The evening will feature delicious food from local restaurants, music, silent & live clay art auction, dessert and an opportunity to celebrate its 60th year since it’s founding. This year, Clay Art Center will honor four individuals and two organizations who have made a significant impact on the organization: Rene Murray, Stephen Rodriguez and Jeff Schlanger, 3 artists who had their start at Clay Art Center; Priscilla Young, past board member; along with Port Chester Village, our home for all 60 years; and ArtsWestchester, whose contributions to the arts in the county makes it possible for us to forge into the future.


Rene Murray

Rene Murray was introduced to pottery in her junior year at the University of Michigan. It was love at first sight. She studied with John Stephenson and graduated with a Master’s degree in Ceramics in 1964.  After working for 8 years at Clay Art Center in Port Chester, NY under the watchful and caring eye of Henry Okamoto, she decided to become a full time studio potter.  In 1971, she left Clay Art Center to begin working at her own studio.  She bought an industrial building in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn, NY and has been in this same studio for almost 50 years.

Rene shows and sells directly from her studio and exhibits at numerous galleries around the country.  She has ceramic pieces in the permanent collection of the Detroit Institute of Art and The Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York.  She has taught at University of Michigan, Pratt Institute of Art, and Kingsborough Community College, and has given workshops in Ohio and New York. Her work has appeared and been written about in a number of art and ceramic magazines including Ceramics Art and Perception and Ceramics Monthly.  She has also collaborated on a video demonstrating an interesting technique that she has perfected. It can be accessed on her website at: The latest showcase for her work for the past four years is SOFA Chicago.

Rene’s tales of her daily commute from her home in Brooklyn to CAC are a testament to her commitment to her studio practice. She continues to be active at Clay Art Center by presenting workshops, participating in exhibitions and serving on CAC’s Advisory Council.

Stephen Rodriguez

Stephen brings west to east to life - geographically, from growing up in LA to settling in Connecticut; and by inspiration - from Mexican-American roots towards a discipline in regard mostly to the tradition of ceramic art in Asia. His pottery training started close to home at Rio Hondo College in LA in 1974, and continued at Alfred University in New York State through 1978. Stephen was studio manager of Clay Art Center in Port Chester, NY from 1981 to 1988, and then became Department Head of Ceramics at Creative Art Workshop in New Haven, CT from 1990 to the present. He received a CT Commission Fellowship in 2004 and his pottery is represented by galleries in NYC, Massachusetts and Maine.

Stephen’s pottery involves endless exploration of handmade clay formulas, high-fire stoneware ranging from black to earth-tones to porcelain. He fires in a gas kiln and often uses ash of different woods to give a cast of "light" or green glassiness over glazes to enhance the forms. Stephen has made a long-time commitment to mastering the expressive and proportional nuances of the classical forms of vases and bowls. They are utilitarian yet individually worked with esthetic presence in mind. Alongside pottery-making and teaching, he builds down-draft kilns.

Stephen had taught technical and throwing workshops at CAC and continues to participate in exhibitions and help re-build and repair CAC’s aging gas kilns.


Stephen Rodriguez

Jeff Schlanger

Jeff Schlanger

Jeff Schlanger, a New York City native, graduate of Music & Art High School and ceramic art student of Maija Grotell at Cranbrook, is developing public art projects on three interrelated subjects: Peace, War and Music.

Joining the Center at 49 Beech Street in June 1958 shortly after the death of Katherine Choy, he worked with Henry Okamoto, Viola Frey, Dean Mullavey, Lala Howard, Jack Hastings, Ted Bielefeld, Trudie Petri-Raben and Yien-koo King. This group exhibited together at the Greenwich, CT Library and Greenwich House Pottery in NYC in the fall and winter. Jeff helped Henry Okamoto move the Center to its current location where he worked with Michael Frimkess and Magdalena Suarez and with William Underhill and Jim Howard in casting bronze.

In 1965, thanks to Henry Okamoto, he established studio Spirale at the Quaker Ridge Station in New Rochelle in order to continue independent work in clay, wood, bronze and painting. His subsequent ceramic work was awarded a Tiffany Foundation Scholarship, NY State Sculpture Fellowship and National Foundation for the Arts Crafts Fellowship and was exhibited at the Tokyo and Kyoto Museums of Modern Art and as juror together with Robert Turner and Peter Voulkos at the Everson Museum Ceramic National exhibition in 1972.

From 1975 through the present, the musicWitness® Project paintings and ceramics have continuously documented live jazz performances in New York and across the country and at Festivals in Paris, Berlin, Finland and Canada. Along with many exhibitions, over 40 recording and book covers have been created at the request of the performing musicians. In 2014, this work received Lifetime Recognition at the 21st Vision Festival and the Chaski Award from El Taller Latinoamericano in NYC.  
CHILE•NEW YORK•AfghanIRAQ, an ensemble of 400 ceramic Faces, Figures & Jars have been exhibited in 45 public spaces including the NY State College of Ceramics at Alfred in 1978, the New York City University Graduate Center in 1980 and the Clay Art Center façade 2008-2010. The opening and closing events at Clay Art Center featured concerts by leading jazz musicians with live painting and also produced a film on the core inspiration of this project.

Jeff has stayed connected exhibited his work at CAC over the last several years, most recently presenting the “Legacy” lecture in honor of CAC’s 60th anniversary.

Priscilla Young

With a B.A. in history from Connecticut College, an M. A. in counseling from UCONN, and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Columbia University, Priscilla Young’s professional career began as a banker. Serving 22 years at Citibank and Bank of America as a commercial real estate lender, her banking career culminated as SVP with credit oversight of Westchester/Fairfield/NYC Private Bank commercial loan portfolio.  She followed her banking career in the non-profit world, working 12 years at the national office of March of Dimes building a major gifts portfolio throughout 300 chapters, successfully raising giving from the average gift size of $12.  

Alongside her professional career, Priscilla was an avid pottery student and clay enthusiast.  In the 1970's, while working at UCONN in an experimental university program, she bought a wheel from Henry Okamoto so she could offer their students pottery courses.  Later, as a resident of Rye, she rediscovered Clay Art Center and began to take classes. When Clay Art Center became a non-profit organization, Priscilla served as a consultant in funding and development and then later joined the board of directors, where she served for 6 years chairing their Development Committee. Priscilla continues to volunteer and sits on several Board committees, working closely with staff on development strategies.  Now retired, she has two grown children and lives in Katonah, NY.


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Chances are, if you or your children have gone to a local exhibition or performance, or participated in an arts class or workshop, your lives have been touched by ArtsWestchester. That is because for over 50 years, ArtsWestchester has been the single most important funder in Westchester County for cultural institutions, as well as for emerging arts organizations, community-based arts groups, and artists. ArtsWestchester is the County’s designated cultural agency, responsible for the distribution of county funds allocated for the arts. Today, the arts are thriving in Westchester in part because ArtsWestchester has put the arts on the public agenda.

ArtsWestchester has invested more than $35 million over many years in arts and culture in Westchester. Its vision is for a Westchester where every man, woman, and child can explore his or her creative impulses; where the arts are accessible to every sector of society and are an educational priority in our schools; where opportunities for artists are plentiful; where public art is fundamental to the landscape and cityscape; and where a new generation can use the arts as a window to the world.  In 1998, ArtsWestchester purchased the nine-story neo-classical bank building in White Plains, NY which has since been transformed into a multi-use resource for artists, cultural organizations, and the community.

Since Clay Art Center became a non-profit in 2007, it has consistently received annual basic support funding from ArtsWestchester, to help increase its audience to include the underserved. This has brought clay into the hands of those could would not have had an opportunity without their support.

The Village of Port Chester

The Village of Port Chester strives to enhance the quality of life within the community and provide for the professional delivery of public services. The Village is committed to open government, public involvement, responsible economic development and being good stewards of Port Chester’s public resources. The Clay Art Center has been and will continue to be an anchor non-profit institution within the Village. It is an active partner in helping to foster creativity and to bring quality clay programming, at its home at 40 Beech Street and beyond to schools and community centers.

The Village of Port Chester supports Clay Art Center annually with a grant to help put clay into the hands of those who would not have access otherwise.