Gladding, McBean an integral part of Feats of Clay

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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The 132-year old Gladding, McBean facility in downtown Lincoln plays a major part in the upcoming Feats of Clay activities. During the month-long celebration of clay arts starting April 28, the facility is open to Lincoln Arts audiences. For its 23rd year of hosting Lincoln Arts’ Feats of Clay show, Gladding, McBean will open up a second tour route, according to Vice President and General Manager Bill Padavona. While the original tour route takes visitors through the production phase of the clay works for 22 years, Padavona said the additional route will showcase the finished products, packaging, inspection and fitting areas. “We thought it would be interesting for the public to see,” Padavona said. The partnership between Gladding, McBean and Lincoln arts goes back to the start of the Feats of Clay show, according to Padavona. The owner of Pacific Coast Building Products – parent company to Gladding, McBean – at the time was Fred Anderson, and he worked with Lincoln Arts to bring the show to the terra-cotta clay-production facility. “There wouldn’t be a show without Gladding, McBean,” said Claudia Renati, executive director of Lincoln Arts. “It would not be the unique and prestigious event that it has been for the last 22 years.” Being able to hold the show in a “wonderfully preserved” historic building, Renati said, makes the show not just attractive for art aficionados but for everyone. “When I first saw it,” Renati said, “I thought, ‘Look at this old and wonderfully preserved history’ and thought that putting modern art in it was eye candy.” Having a show open to the public in an industrial production facility does raise some concerns but they are easily taken care of, Padavona said. “We have a big concern for public safety and we don’t want anyone touching the unfinished products,” Padavona said, explaining that work continues and forklifts are still operational. All docents are trained in safety before the event. Touching unfinished products could damage their finish, especially if they have yet to be glazed, according to Padavona. “I think as long as we’ve been doing this,” Padavona said, “we’ve had a very good relationship with Lincoln Arts.” In addition to the practical instruction on safety, Padavona said all docents, who are provided by Lincoln Arts, are well-informed on the history of Gladding, McBean. “They really do an excellent job,” Padavona said. “It’s pretty well orchestrated.” All of the tours are guided and Gladding, McBean loans its antique fire engine to Lincoln Arts so tour groups can be transported across Seventh Street and onto the facility in style, Padavona said. Having tour groups passing through the facility for the duration of the tour, which runs every Tuesday through Sunday from April 28 to May 31, doesn’t present a problem to Gladding, McBean, according to Padavona. Opening its doors to the public allows show visitors the opportunity to see the “heart and soul” of a manufacturing company in these times, Padavona said, adding that many historic buildings across the nation and in at least 10 countries around the world use the clay products made in Lincoln. A major part of the restoration involves the facades of historic buildings that are crumbling or missing, Padavona said. “I think it reflects on Gladding, McBean’s activity with community events,” Padavona said. “We’ve always been supportive of the community and the local government. We try to do our best to contribute whatever we can.” That activity, according to Padavona, has resulted in several awards over the years, including ones from the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, the California Mining Association and various arts foundations. Feats of Clay is for everyone, Renati said, “especially those who are not art lovers. It draws them in and it blows their minds. It’s open to everybody.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at