The first event of the annual NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) conference is always the Gallery Expo on the Tuesday evening before the program begins. Ceramics galleries and clay centers are set up in booths near the retail exhibit hall and it is a feast of functional pots, plus some sculptural work.
There are cash bars set up and it is the time to ease in to the meet and greet that is at the heart of the conference. This conference attracts all those who are interested in the ceramic arts: potters, sculptors, installation artists, performance artists, collectors, gallerists, writers, curators and most of all, students. My first NCECA was when I was in my last year of my undergraduate studies, 1992, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US. That even was attended by more than 1500 attendees and it was overwhelming. This year, 5200 are preregistered so that almost guarantees that there will be more than 6000 in attendance.
The many and varied programs run simultaneously so that every hour all day Thursday and Friday, there are choices to be made about what to see and who to hear. There are demonstrators, panels and lectures on current topics, as well as exhibitions.
The location of the conference changes from year to year, spanning the contiguous states as well as possible. There is a theme for each year’s conference and exhibitions in which the artists explore that theme. Each year, there are about 100 exhibitions in the host city and the surrounding communities. This year we are in Pittsburgh and it will be no exception.