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Annual art show loses its Gladding, McBean home

Art League of Lincoln scrambling to find new venue
By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
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The Art League of Lincoln is looking for another home for the inaugural America’s Clayfest.

America’s Clayfest replaces Feats of Clay, a month-long juried ceramics art show and tours held at the Gladding, McBean plant off of Sixth Street in downtown Lincoln.

The Feats of Clay was put on by the now defunct Lincoln Arts for 24 years.  The art show extravaganza was canceled last year when Lincoln Arts disbanded.

The Art League of Lincoln’s new art show gala is tentatively set for April 20. The art show is tentatively set to run from April 25 to May 26 in a location not yet known, according to Art League of Lincoln President Paul Apfel.

The former gala and month-long Feats of Clay took place annually inside Gladding, McBean and on its grounds. But that venue is no longer available.

Gladding, McBean told Apfel that America’s Clayfest cannot take place on the grounds of Gladding, McBean anymore because of concerns about public access related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Apfel.

Art League members were told Monday morning, Apfel said, when they met with Gladding, McBean officials that the venue would not be available.

The show was formerly known as Feats of Clay but the name changed to America’s Clayfest after Lincoln Arts ceased operating last February. The Art League of Lincoln was created to fill the void for a nonprofit arts organization in Lincoln.

On Wednesday, Gladding, McBean plant manager Jerry Stacy said the company can no longer provide access to the general public, due to risk management and insurance.

“The company feels really bad about it,” Stacy said. “We’ve done this for 24 years. There isn’t much we can do about it. Insurance rates could climb.”

Members of the public came onto the grounds for 24 years for an opening night gala, to see artwork on display and tour the working plant, which began operations in 1875 after “potters clay” was found here in 1874.

 “There will no longer be public access to Gladding, McBean,” Apfel said. “We are looking at our options and alternatives. We will have an art show in April but the gala and show will be at a different venue.”

Stacy said the company will help financially with the gala and art show.

“We will decide how much the company will contribute when the art league submits information about costs,” Stacy said.

In addition, Gladding, McBean “will provide a pallet of handmade clay and a couple of pallets of small-diameter pipe for children to use for sculpting,” Stacy said. The clay and pipe are used during the annual daylong celebration in Beermann’s Plaza set for May 18, featuring artists, music and clay play for children.

Lincoln council members were notified Monday about the situation.

The Art League of Lincoln will need a venue for the gala and the art show.

“Obviously, this is a big shock,” said Lincoln Mayor Stan Nader. “The gala won’t be the same as when it took place next to the kilns. The building is quite impressive. We understand Gladding, McBean has needs but this is impacting others. It’s sad this has gotten to where it is.”

Nader said the city “certainly has venues but this is a pretty big event.” He is not sure McBean Park Pavilion would be “big enough for the amount of people that come to that gala.” Another option would be the Civic Center on Joiner Parkway. For the art show, Nader said the city could consider the refurbished old Civic Center on Fifth Street.

“This venue would certainly have the ambiance but I do not know how much space the Art League of Lincoln will need,” Nader said.

Lincoln officials had previously discussed helping house artwork but not gala and show venues.

At the Jan. 8 Lincoln City Council meeting, council members talked about where to store artwork before the show.

Councilman Spencer Short mentioned the old PG&E building but the council has not decided whether to rent or sell the building at 580 Sixth St.

Councilman Paul Joiner said the artwork could be accepted and stored on the third floor of City Hall “for security purposes, perhaps.”

Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep said the third floor of City Hall “would be best on a temporary basis.”

The deadline for ceramics entries is Feb. 4.

 American Clayfest curator Mike Daley said he is expecting more than 100 pieces for the show. Artists will compete for $3,000 in prizes.

The juror for the show is artist Richard Shaw, professor of art and ceramics at University of California at Berkeley.