Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts (Newcastle, ME)


Jane Shellenbarger, a 2006 artist-in-residence at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, applies brushwork to a plate. Photo courtesy of Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts 

Maine isn’t called Vacationland for nothing. On weekends, motorists clog Route 1 heading for coastal cabins. Along the way, tourists stop to shop at places like Blueberry Cupboard and Cool as a Moose. They buy balsam fir sachets, lighthouse magnets, and pottery dotted with Maine’s signature blueberries. Many Maine potters make a living producing such serviceable ceramics, but cross Wiscasset Bridge and wander west on winding dirt for a mile, and you’ll find a sanctuary for artists who aspire to create art from clay: the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts.

“Watershed’s mission isn’t to teach people to make blueberry pottery,” said Tyler Gulden, the center’s programs director.

For 20 years, the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts has been providing residencies for potters who want to take a break from producing commercial pottery and instead create ceramic art. To mark the anniversary, the center received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $10,000 to fund a series of ceramics symposia that were open to the public.

“In our community, many people know about Watershed as an organization, but even some of our closest neighbors don’t know what we do,” Gulden said.

The symposia were held at Skidompha Public Library, a more accessible location than the ceramics studio. As many as 50 people came to hear Watershed’s summer artists-in-residence discuss and demonstrate their work. The center also continued to offer slide nights, open studios, and community dinners. Thanks to the symposia, more local residents have been driving out that dirt road in Newcastle to watch the artists at work.