Grant Will Fund Gallery Renovations and Ceramics Program Upgrades

Wide shot of gallery with photos hung on gray walls and two display tables with pottery on them.The Windgate Foundation awarded Mars Hill University more than $108,000 to renovate Weizenblatt Gallery and upgrade facilities for its Center for the Ceramic Arts and associated academic program. The grant also will allow the university to hire a gallery intern and continue to host artist-in-residence positions to supplement existing faculty and staff involved with the program.

Shane Mickey, the university’s ceramics professor and chair of the art department, said, “We approached this grant request from two fronts: how the art department works with and impacts the local community, and safety in the ceramics studio.”

Community members benefit from Mars Hill’s ceramics and other arts programs in several ways. Weizenblatt Gallery hosts at least seven shows each year, welcoming 2,000 community members and hundreds of students each year to see art exhibits. The university will use some of the grant funds to make improvements to the gallery, including replacing flooring and wall surfaces, and the intern position will provide much-needed support for the gallery director.

Shane Mickey, wearing a red apron, throws a pot on a pottery wheel while students in the foreground watch him work.“Ceramics studios tend to be dusty places with inherent hazards,” Mickey said. “Electrical upgrades in the form of drop poles for potter’s wheels and a dust collection system for the pottery studio and clay-mixing areas are vital for safety.”

During the summer the ceramics program offers summer camps for high school students as well as professional workshops. Mickey says the safety upgrades and the addition of the artists-in-residence will help the university serve more camp and workshop participants than has been possible in recent years.

Prospective students are invited to learn more about Mars Hill University’s ceramics and other visual arts programs at the art department’s Be a Major (BAM) Day on Wednesday, November 15. BAM days are specifically geared to give high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to see first-hand what it would be like to be an art student at Mars Hill. More information is available at

The Windgate Foundation, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a private foundation established in 1993 whose purpose is to advance contemporary craft and strengthen visual arts education in the United States.