BY JANET MANDELSTAM
When Bob and Ellie Haan decided to expand the ceramics collection at their Haan Mansion Museum last spring in Lafayette, Indiana, they began visiting contemporary artists in their homes and studios. “One artist led us to another,” they say, and soon the Haans’ collection numbered 1,000 pieces, all by artists who did their major work in Indiana.
“We didn’t realize Indiana had a tradition of ceramics,” Bob acknowledges. The couple had been casually buying some historic pieces and already had examples of early-Indiana ceramics by potters, such as Karl Martz, who established the ceramics program at Indiana University. “But we fell in love with the current work,” he says.
Seven Bloomington-area clay artists are represented in the new acquisitions. Three of the contemporary artists have connections to IU’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts. Tim Mather and Malcolm Mobutu Smith are current associate professors of ceramics, and John Goodheart is a professor emeritus. The other local area artists are Julia Livingston and Ruth Conway of Bloomington and Jamas Brooke and Larry Spears of Nashville, Indiana.
“Each has his or her unique voice,” says Bob. Their styles range from delicate porcelain to raku to ceramic casts of found objects. Most of the pieces are decorative rather than functional and employ a variety of firings and glazes. Some are quite large and sculptural. The Haans purchased at least a dozen works from most of the artists for their private museum. “We were able to buy pieces in their homes, some of them made 30 or 40 years ago.”
Now, the Haans say, “We think we’ve covered most of the top ceramic artists in the state.” More than 400 pieces are currently on exhibit along with the museum’s collection of Indiana paintings, which includes works by the Brown County Art Colony, and its collection of American furniture.
All of the collections are housed in the Haan Mansion, which was originally the State of Connecticut building at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. It was dismantled and moved to Lafayette when the fair ended. For information about tours of the mansion and museum, visit the Haan Mansion website.