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Archie Bray Foundation, Helena

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Art Gallery · Hidden Gem · Shopping
The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts is located near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Helena, Montana, on the grounds of what was once Western Clay Manufacturing Co. brick manufacturing company. Bray, an avid patron of the arts, envisioned an art center and built the Pottery in the spring of 1951, the first step in his dream to "make available for all who are seriously interested in the ceramic arts, a fine place to work."

Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos were the first resident managers of the Bray. The volume and quality of their work drew attention to the new program and attracted many talented and ambitious potters. A landmark workshop in 1952, with potters Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach, and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, had a profound influence on both Autio and Voulkos. Neither had seen clay treated so loosely and freely. It was an approach which changed their whole attitude towards clay.

Since its inception, the Bray has drawn more than 200 ceramic artists from around the world to work, including such well-known ceramists as Tre Arenz, Val Cushing, John and Andrea Gill, Wayne Higby, Clary Illian, Jun Kaneko, Eva Kwong, Jim and Nan McKinnell, Ron Meyers, Robert Sperry, Chris Staley, Akio Takamori, and Arnie Zimmerman.

Directors Ken Ferguson, David Shaner, and Dave Cornell worked hard at the Bray in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, to establish a sound financial base by selling pots, clay, and ceramic supplies, and by offering classes and workshops. Kurt Weiser's tenure as Resident Director at the Bray from 1977 to 1988 saw an expansion of the clay business with Chip Clawson as manager, and a successful fundraising effort to purchase the brickyard after it closed in 1960. Carol Roorbach became Resident Director in 1989, establishing a permanent endowment. Roorbach also initiated procedures for improved storage and documentation of the extensive and growing Bray permanent collection.

Josh DeWeese became Resident Director in 1991, and worked to establish a Resident Artist Scholarship fund which helps residents to enjoy studio space rent-free. In addition, the Bray now offers a growing number of resident artist fellowships which provide annual stipends for juried resident artists, and the Peter Voulkos Fellowship Fund supports an annual visiting artist award to a prominent, world-renowned ceramic artist to work at the Bray.

Most notably, the Bray, under DeWeese's leadership, successfully completed a $2.5 million capital campaign to construct a new state-of-the-art resident studio facility, expand endowment and strengthen annual operations.

Upon Josh's retirement in 2006, Steven Young Lee was hired as the Resident Artist Director, and continues the work of upgrading facilities for resident artists and expanding workshop and exhibitions programs.
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Archie Bray Foundation reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
58 reviews
  • I liked that walk amidst the ceramics. The first thing we saw was that the roof had fallen apart, but it was not dangerous at all. While we walked we could see all kinds of ceramics. Modern ones...  more »
  • What a wonderful place to visit and wander around and to think it had been within a few miles of my home all along! Great walking tour to see at your own leisure. Lots of talented artists have left...  more »
  • If you're visiting Helena, you cannot miss this place.
  • Not sure why anyone would ever give this place any less than 5 stars! It's a treasure trove, an outdoor museum, a walk through history and a complete joy to explore!

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