The ceramic workshops at Longmont combine creativity and community, activism
A small group of community members gathered Wednesday morning in a studio at the back of the Longmont Museum at long wooden tables – some solitary, others alongside family members or friends – and s is quietly put to work.
They continued to build ceramic sculptures, on which they had started before. Slabs and lumps of brown clay were among the sculptors, needles and other tools chosen by the students to give their pieces texture and personality.
But this was no ordinary ceramics class. Participants in Wednesday’s course, which kicked off the final week of a three-week series of workshops, will see their work displayed at the agri+CULTURE art exhibition next summer. The exhibit will pair Boulder County farmers with artists from across the region and country to share stories about our interconnectedness with the land we live on.
The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the Longmont Museum will co-host agri+CULTURE June 8-11, 2023 with Ollin Farms, the Milk & Honey Farm at the Boulder Jewish Community Center, and the Boulder County Agricultural Heritage Center.
For Margarita Cabrera, ceramic workshop instructor and agri+CULTURE participating artist, art isn’t just about making clay sculptures — it’s also about building community and creating change.
“Art has the power to reflect, and it also has the power to transform,” Cabrera said. “We create communities, we create relationships, we create consciousness. It’s not about the end product, it’s about the process, our conversations and bringing people together.
By showcasing her students’ work in the art exhibit, Cabrera hopes to elevate the voices of community members who have a personal connection to issues such as soil regeneration, pollination and food accessibility. She partners with Ollin Farms, a local farm co-owned by her cousin, Kena Guttridge Cordero, to bring her ceramic workshops to the public.
In Cabrera’s workshops, which attracted diverse participants from different countries, cultures and languages, students were given instructions to build a “story box” out of clay. Each box, roughly the size of a loaf of bread, is meant to tell a story about its creator and his connection to the land.
After students finish building their story boxes, the pieces will be fired in the University of Colorado Boulder’s kilns. From there they will become the 3 foot long wooden spoon handles.
The inspiration for the spoons, Cabrera explained, comes from a parable about diners discovering that they have to eat with extra-long spoons. Guests trying to feed each other find it impossible to eat from a spoon, but collaborating guests find they can feed from the other side of the table.
Once the spoons are assembled, they will be used in a feast, and Cabrera hopes this feast will be an opportunity to bring more people together to talk about food access and sustainability.
“Who comes to the table is important,” Cabrera said. “Other members of the community… also need to relay their stories and be part of these conversations about food accessibility.”
Christina Edstrom, a participant in Wednesday’s workshop, said the project felt meaningful to her because of her family’s history in agriculture and food production.
“My dad actually worked for the sugar factory,” Edstrom said. “Rather than using our land to create things that make us sick, (I try) to promote the use of our land to promote the health of our community.”
For other participants, like Jasmine Sampson, the main attractions of the workshop were the community aspect, the joy of playing with clay and the opportunity to be creative.
The class “was eye-opening,” Sampson said. “Meeting different people and watching different people create art – (we’ve) built a community of like-minded people. I don’t see that every day.