The Sustaining Presence:
Stalwarts of African American Contemporary Clay

This February marks the 47th annual Black History Month, a celebration of the achievements and advancements of Black Americans who have contributed to the history of the United States. The Clay Art Center honors Black History Month by providing an online invitational exhibition, “The Sustaining Presence: Stalwarts of African American Contemporary Clay,” guest curated by Syd Carpenter, that celebrates Black ceramic artists from across the US, throughout February on view until March 11.


“The African diaspora has influenced globally diverse expressions in music, dance, theatre, literature and the visual arts for more than a century. From the majestic and poetic works of Dave Drake in the 19th century to celebrated works of Simone Leigh in the 21st, Black clay artists have been a consistent community of innovative clay productivity. From pure abstraction to explicit representations of the experience of being Black in America, the presence of Black artists is here represented by notable stalwarts who have continued to creatively enhance the field,” states Guest Curator Syd Carpenter. 


“Many beginning their careers in the late 60’s and early 70’s, their work reflects the ongoing vibrancy, technical brilliance and creative insight of this group of artists.”


Participating Artists include Earline Green, Winnie Owens Hart, Malcolm Mobutu Smith, Sana Musasama, Bobby Scroggins, Kevin Snipes and Lydia Thompson.


A Virtual Artist Talk about In Conversation: The Sustaining Presence, Moderated by Syd Carpenter, with Guest Participating Artists from the Exhibition, will be held Wednesday, February 8th, 7pm.


Guest Curator Syd Carpenter lives In Philadelphia. Pennsylvania. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, James A Michener Museum, Tang Museum of Skidmore College, and Fuller Craft Museum. She is a Professor of Studio Art, at Swarthmore College, PA.


Concepts in Clay (which opened in 2021) features works of celebrated Black ceramic artists from across the US, and brings together a collective voice that speaks about a variety of themes and processes as part of the continuum of artists of color working in clay in the US today. Clay is the vehicle that amplifies these voices, and within this collection, these artists not only share their work with us, but their thoughts on what present-day America means to each of them.


The artists selected here make clay works that are wide ranging in the treatments of surfaces, processes, forms, materials and subject matter. This collection also investigates a variety of themes unique to the Black experience in America, from human relationships and interactions, identity and image of self, social justice and activism, to the outward expression of inner experiences.


Featured artists include: Adero Willard, Kyle and Kelly Phelps, Morel Doucet, Paul Andrew Wandless, Syd Carpenter, Donte Hayes, Lydia C. Thompson, Nathan Murray, Paul Briggs, and Rich Brown


View the Exhibits online at or


Black Ceramic Artists Talks in the Online Virtual Library at y