Take him or leave him, Richard Wukich is promoting art with a cause. While the Jan. 17-March 24 exhibit began as a retrospective of his ceramics, an undercurrent of activism kept rising to the surface as conversations continually turned from art to social change. Throughout his career, Wukich has been promoting art as a means of empowering disadvantaged students, recognizing the contributions of arts educators, and providing clean water in third world countries.
In fact, the artist has asked that any proceeds from the sale of his work be donated to a local charity addressing hunger or similar issues. Thus the exhibition will not only include examples of his artistry over the last fifty years, but a selection of vessels for sale and a display of water filters. The water filter project is, perhaps, closest to Wukich’s heart.
As an international coordinator for Potters Water Action Group, he has worked to set up production studios across the globe in countries such as Haiti, Nigeria and Nepal. Potters Water Action Group is an organization that strives to provide safe drinking water through education, research, development, and the dissemination of ceramic water filters. These filters are made by combining clay with combustible materials such as sawdust, forming the mixture into a bell-shaped vessel, and firing it in a kiln. When contaminated water is poured into the finished filter, it percolates through the clay vessel and purified water drips out. The ceramic filters remove 95% of microbiological particulate matter in the water. If the filter is coated with colloidal silver, a natural anti-microbial that renders the disease causing agents inert, the efficacy of the filters increases to essentially 100 percent.
A local chapter is now in the works for Slippery Rock. Last March, Wukich headed the 1st annual International Water Filter Conference at Slippery Rock University. A second conference is being planned for 2017.
A Braddock native, Wukich taught art at Slippery Rock University from 1968-2011. He focused on ceramics, helping to develop a ceramics studio and the SRU Potters Guild. He received his BFA from Edinboro University and MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, studying under Val Cushing and Daniel Rhodes. Through Cushing, Wukich became involved in the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) annual conference. He currently sits on the steering committee for the 2018 conference to take place in Pittsburgh on March 17, 2018.
Currently Wukich is working with former students to develop a social enterprise called the Slippery Rock Clayworks Collaborative in Grove City. The studio will offer classes and gallery space while raising an awareness of and support for social issues. A public reception is planned for January 20, 6-8 pm.