History

1974-1976

“Voice”, a group of citizens interested in hands-on art experiences for all ages, working in partnership with the city recreation programs, is formed.

Equipment and supply needs motivated this group to formalize as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, called the ‘Ambroz Arts Advisory Board’. During this time period, they accomplished the following:

  • Created a ‘Very Special Arts’ Festival for people with disabilities. This included all schools in the seven-county area, including the Cerebral Palsy Center and group homes.

  • Converted a classroom into a Gallery in the Ambroz Recreation Center building. This provided opportunities to area artists, participating students, schools and guest artists to display their work to a large audience, including many who would otherwise never feel comfortable entering a gallery.

  • Brought guest artists in a variety of media for workshops and presentations to the general public.

  • Received a grant to help acquire and install a new Alpine 24 cu. ft. gas kiln.

  • Started an acoustic music festival that introduced area musicians to the public.

  • Raised funds that provided materials to be used for easels, darkroom equipment, potters wheels, extruders, and a slab roller.

  • Introduced the first Midwestern glass classes and opened a small store to sell glass supplies, providing a year-round source of funding for the group’s projects.

 1980

Summer programs for the Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC) are instituted.

 1985

Adult art class participation in classes provided by the city and the Advisory Board doubles.

The ‘Elementary Raku Art Project’ is created.

  • An integrated curricular outreach program that included all students, teachers, and staff in a hands-on Raku experience in each school. This program received recognition from School Arts magazine as a prime example of an integrated arts programming in education. This program continues to this day, going into one to two schools per year. As a result, the project has increased participation in youth programs from approximately 75 students in 1985 to over 700 participants annually in 2019.

 A second Arts program is established for middle school students. Using guest artists who are experts in varied media, but who also provide career insights to the attending seventh-grade student’s explore three art forms during a week of activities.

Introduction of the ‘Cedar Rapids Ethnic Festival’ as a showcase of ethnic art and culture in our area. Community nonprofit ethnic organizations were invited to participate. The Festival evolved into a community celebration of accomplishments provided by all organizations throughout the year.

1997

Christkindlmarkt, a celebration based on a European Christmas market, with hand-crafted products imported from all over the world, is instituted.

  • Over 1,000 school children were bussed in to learn about life in former East Germany and of the craft of glass blowing.

An educational outreach program for elementary school gifted students is begun, providing a five-month study period and an intensive concluding arts experience.

2006

The ‘Ambroz Arts Advisory Board’ reorganizes as ‘Iowa Art Works, Inc.’, following a decline in the city’s Recreation Department’s support of the arts.

  • The Board leases space in the downtown to house a gallery and studios, as a base for arts programs separate from the city.

During this time, the Board continued to offer Raku classes in the schools and were given temporary space by Mount Mercy College for their summer programs.

Note: Between 1974-2006, the Board provided to the community thousands of dollars of supplies and the use of basic and innovative art equipment, such as digital music labs and computerized photo labs. They received recognition as a group and individually through State Park and Recreation awards and by the National Park and Recreation Association. In this time period, the Board annually donated the equivalent of five full-time staff to the various endeavors described above.

2008

The ‘Iowa Art Works, Inc.’ Board of Directors acquires space in the historic Cherry Building to create the Ceramics Center.

  • After the devastating flood of 2008, the Board began looking for a facility to house a comprehensive Ceramics Center – and with the help of the Chadima family – the historic Cherry Building became the home for the new Ceramics Center.

  • Extensive reclamation, renovation and build-out of the space begin.

  • Ben Jensen is appointed as the Center’s first Executive Director.

  • Theresa Childers directs all Glass programs.

2009

The Ceramics Center opens its doors and begins offering classes to the public (September 2009)

  • Classes and workshops in clay and glass offered on a regular basis throughout the year, constitute the core of the Center’s programming. Its primary audience is children and adults in Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities. Outreach programs in the local schools and partnerships with several organizations in the city extend the Center’s activities further into the community, with an emphasis on reaching ‘at-risk’ and underserved populations.

Additional programming includes a Children’s Summer Camp program for grades K-12, local school outreach, which works with over 1,200 children each year, holiday and weekend workshops for children and adults, and off-site participation in annual community events.

A ‘Visiting Artist’ Program brings internationally recognized artists to the community to exhibit their work and conduct workshops.

Once established into the Cherry Building, The Center prospered and grew by leaps and bounds, adding a large variety of classes and workshops in both clay and fused glass, 24/7 studio rental spaces, visiting artists, conferences, new kilns, and a large gallery space.

The Artist-In-Residence Program is launched.

  • To help fulfill its mission to promote professional development in the ceramic and glass arts, The Center conducts a nationally recognized Artist-In-Residence Program for emerging artists from around the world, which provides studio space, materials and mentoring in exchange for work at the Center.

  • The first five Artists-in-Residence begin working at the Center:

April Kalmes (Coe College), Andrea Degneau (Coe College), Gary Webb (Coe College), Frank Ditri (U of Iowa), Justin Rominger? (U of Iowa)?

The Ceramics Center makes its debut at the Marion Arts Festival, beginning a ten year run as the featured organization in the festival’s Depot area.

2010

The Soda kiln is constructed and fired for the first time. New electric glass kilns are also acquired.

2011

The biennial ‘Iowa Clay Conference’ is created.

  • The conference is the first such event in the state to bring together and celebrate the accomplishments of Iowa potters, artists and arts educators. Participants from across Iowa and the Midwest are invited to participate.

  • The keynote address was presented by local potter Clary Ilian and the conference featured Coe Gallery Director Jennifer Rogers, Ohio University Professor of Art Brad Schwieger, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor of Art Pete Pinnell and Cornell College Assistant Professor of Art Susannah Biondo-Gemmell as the primary presenters.

The Board honors Jane Nelson for her ‘vision, dedication and perseverance’ on behalf of Iowa Art Works, Inc. and The Ceramics Center.

2012

The Wood kiln is completed and fired for the first time.

2013

A van is purchased and outfitted to house the Center’s new Mobile Clay Program:

  • The Mobile Clay Program targets underserved populations in the Cedar Rapids metro area, to bring fine arts activities and education directly to those who cannot actively seek them out.

Three specific populations are targeted for this outreach program: organizations assisting the disabled, persons living in assisted living or retirement homes and at-risk youth populations. Specifically, the program brings the educational resources of the Center’s successful in-house programs directly to these individuals. Programs are tailored to meet the specific needs of each of these communities.

The  ‘2nd Biennial Iowa Clay Conference’ features a keynote address by Peter Pinnell and demonstrations by Bede Clarke, Israel Davis, Margaret Bohls and  EJ Erdahl.

2014

The Board confers its ‘Outstanding Service Award’ to board members Helga Mayhew and John MacDonald.

2015

The 3rd Biennial Iowa Clay Conference’ features Linda Christianson and Joe Pintz, with a Pre-Conference Workshop lead by Gerit Grimm.

 The Board confers its ‘Outstanding Service Award’ to Theresa Childers and Lindy Ethier for their dedication to the Glass program.

Ben Jensen resigns as Executive Director.

Amethyst Warrington is appointed as Acting Executive Director.

The search begins for a new ED.

2016

Ellen Kleckner is hired as the new Executive Director of The Ceramics Center.

2017

In January 2017, the Board approved changing the Center’s name to become the ‘Iowa Ceramics Center and Glass Studio’.

  • The change reflects the organization’s geographic roots and its growing glass studio and classes.

Planning begins for the creation of a Hot Glass Studio.

  • A ‘Capital Campaign’ committee is formed to raise funds for the project.

Hall-Perrine awards a $20,000 (2:1 matching) grant to the Center for the project.

2018

The Center holds its ‘4th Iowa Clay Conference’.  The conference features demonstrations and presentations of the working processes of Matt Kelleher and Janis Wunderlich, with guest presenter Zachary Wollert.

2019

Ten Year Anniversary

  • Celebrating a decade of service to the Cedar Rapids community, a variety of celebratory programming is scheduled throughout 2019, including: an ambitious exhibition series, (entitled ‘A Formed Community’), specialized Visiting Artist workshops, a redesigned website, the dedication of the ‘David and Lijun Chadima Gallery’, an all-day Open House/Family Day in June and a ‘10th Anniversary Party’ in October.

In striving to address its primary strategic priority – to promote understanding and appreciation in the ceramic and glass arts – the Center has achieved the milestone of serving over 10,000 students over the last decade – and has reached over 35,000 additional individuals via its Mobile Outreach programs.