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Grinnell Area Arts Council Celebrates the Clay Medium

Photo by Jae Eun Oh. “The Village” by Jefferson Henshaw is on display this month at the Stewart Gallery.

Michael Cummings, Staff Writer

The Grinnell Area Arts Council has spent the past week celebrating clay as an artistic medium. Last Saturday marked the Council’s annual Raku Workshop, as well as the opening of “The Village: Old World Charm through Modern Art,” a new ceramics exhibit at the Art Center’s Stewart Gallery. An opening reception was held for the exhibit on Thursday, Oct. 1.

The Raku Workshop, timed every year to coincide with the College’s Family Weekend, is a way of fundraising for the Arts Council as well as giving the Grinnell community hands-on experience with art they can create themselves.

“The Raku Workshop has become a tradition in Grinnell,” said Christian Lutz, Executive Director of the Arts Council. “We’ve been doing it for more than a decade.”

Lutz added that the unique way that raku pots are fired, which involves complex chemical reactions that lead to one-of-a-kind colors and designs, is attractive to patrons.

“The real neat thing is you don’t know how it’s going to turn out coming out of the kiln,” Lutz said. “It really is an interactive form of art that people have come to expect every fall.”

Speaking on the choice to bring “The Village” to Stewart Gallery, Lutz emphasized that the artist, Jefferson Henshaw, had displayed his work there before.

“Jefferson is not a stranger to the Gallery,” Lutz said. “His work actually appeared in a group exhibit that was here a year ago that highlighted the work of the Cedar Rapids Ceramics Center.”

According to Henshaw, ceramics, and art in general, were not subjects in which he had always been interested.

“Near the age of thirty, and after a long personal decline, I randomly picked up a pencil to try drawing,” reads the statement on his website.

Henshaw got his introduction to art through the medium of drawing but has since expanded his horizons to include painting and, recently, ceramics.

“It’s just been a journey, you know? It’s been a process of experimentation and exploration. I started in clay in February of 2014,” Henshaw said.

His exhibit, which is centered on the theme of an idyllic Old World Village, features a number of sculpted houses which look like they’re straight out of a fairy tale.

Each house features a blurb about its place in the fictional village describes who built it and who lives there.

While clay is Henshaw’s most recent medium, he still continues to draw and paint. This is exemplified in the exhibit, which features paintings and drawings on the walls behind the sculptures. The different mediums complement one another, with one sculpted farmhouse situated in front of both a painting of its farm and a drawing of the farmer.

Although his process developed organically, “I think I’ll be doing more of that from now on,” Henshaw said. “It’s kind of just something that’s evolving.”

The exhibit runs until Nov. 8. Stewart Gallery is open Monday through Friday 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 to 5:30 p.m, as well as Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

More information about Jefferson Henshaw and his artwork can be found at his website,

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