SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — It may be a little later than usual, and look a little different than usual, but the South County Art Association’s Earthworks Open Juried Clay Exhibit is back for its 47th year.
The annual exhibit, which usually takes place in April, was pushed back due to COVID-19 after some doubts regarding whether or not the show would happen this year, premiered last Thursday and runs at the gallery through Aug. 22 and features 45 unique pottery pieces and other works all made with clay.
Earthworks was juried by former National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts president and longtime Salve Regina University ceramics professor Jay Lacouture of Carolina, R.I. and is also the SCAA’s first open juried show since the start of the pandemic.
“This is the first time he’s ever juried this show,” SCAA Exhibitions Director Jason Fong said.
Initially when planning the show for April, Fong had another artist from Vermont slated to serve as juror, but as the pandemic began to rise in March, the artist was uncomfortable with making the trip down to South County and the SCAA was unsure if the show would even go on.
“As things played out and we knew when we were going to be reopening, we started to put some plans together,” Fong said. “I’ve always known (Lacouture) would be an excellent juror, someone who could do a great critique of the work, but I’ve always avoided using him because he is so local and he knows a lot of our artists, but in this case or in this year that kind of worked out and he agree to do it which is very gracious of him and it worked out great. He was an excellent juror.”
Normally for the show, the juror views all submissions and critiques and chooses the pieces in front of a live audience, most of whom are the artists who submitted works. However, with a limit on crowds leading to no opening night ceremony, the SCAA had to go in a different direction: shooting a video of Lacouture viewing and critiquing pieces from the SCAA’s backyard, which was posted to the group’s website.
“It was just Jay, myself and one of our other staff people with the camera just to do all of the social distancing and everything we didn’t want to have an audience,” Fong said. ”I only wish that the artists could’ve seen him do this live like we would do normally because he really did an excellent critique of all the work.“
Jurors also typically hold a corresponding workshop with the SCAA, which is on hold for now, but Fong says they’re hoping to have Lacouture back in the near future once they are able to host such events again.
As expected with the pandemic, Fong said the SCAA received about half of their usual submissions, with 69 total pieces as opposed to the usual 130 to 150 submissions.
“I think that’s understandable with everything that’s going on,” Fong said. “Clay is one of those mediums where the artists need a place to work, a facility that has equipment like a kiln and pottery wheels and things like that, and a lot of people were just not able to get in their studios in the springtime, in the last few months.”
While the quantity may have been lower, Fong says the quality was evident.
“All things considered, the work that’s in this show I think would hold its own against any show we’ve had in the last 47 years,” Fong said. “There’s some excellent work here and we did get a very good show out of it.”
Beyond all of that, Fong said the ability to hold open juried shows again at the SCAA is a “big deal.”
“The attendance was down, we kind of knew that would happen, but it was gratifying to see how many people were still interested in participating and the quality of work that we got was as good as ever, so I feel it’s an accomplishment that we’re putting together a quality exhibition in these times and at this particular time,” Fong said. “Hopefully next year we’ll go back to the way of normally running this exhibit. It’s definitely an excellent show worth coming to take a look.“
The exhibit runs Wednesdays through Sundays, excluding holidays, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. through Aug. 22.
The SCAA is located at 2587 Kingstown Road in Kingston, and for more information, visit their website, southcountyart.org.