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St. Joseph Ceramics Class Fires Up Creativity

“They kind of turn into little mud monsters” is all you need to hear to know Joseph Fralick’s ceramics program at Upton Middle School in St. Joseph, MI, is a success.

With a grant from The Meemic Foundation, along with some other donors, art teacher Joseph was able to dedicate a ceramics class for his sixth- to eighth-graders. He got a new potters wheel (“we had an ancient one”), glaze, molding and sculpting tools, accessories and clay.

“I got a lot of support this year,” he says.

Joseph says he loves the new experiences the grant allowed him to share with his students.

“I think one of the important things that came out of these grants is the different opportunities these kids have that they never had before,” he says. “The crazy thing is, if you were to take a ceramics class at our local art center, it’s about $200 a kid. The idea of being able to get a similar experience is huge to some kids.”

Joseph is excited to offer the class so he can engage students who may not have been interested in art in a new way and discover new talents.

“It’s a more tactile feel. Molding something 3D is different than drawing,” he says. “Art is kind of this thing where some kids think if they can’t draw or paint, they’re not a good artist.”

The new potters wheel was the most important piece to come from the grant, he says.

“It’s hard to get the (money) to buy or replace a wheel. When you’ve got a class of 28, I try to do a rotation where they all get an opportunity. It’s tough to do that with old equipment. To get a new one was a big deal.”

Joseph felt the class could work after teaching a ceramics boot camp for kids 8-12. “This one kid, he had it head to toe. He was so engaged, he didn’t even notice he’d been completely covered (in clay).”

As with any artistic endeavor, the skills and mindset can transfer to other areas to give kids a fuller experience.

“The things I’m seeing kids make digitally, they’re just amazing,” he says. “Some of the coding stuff they do, it is technical, but there is a creative aspect to designing games."