UD’s ceramics graduate program

Elizabeth Given, Terri Wilder and Mary German make up the entirety of UD's ceramics graduate program, allowing for a private, yet communal, atmosphere. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

The art village is one of the University of Dallas’ greatest hidden treasures. The school’s most unique buildings and machinery are hidden in the small forest, but the art village hides more than swings, fruit trees and trees with bright yellow branches.

Nestled in the back corner is a small studio where three of the university’s most special minds spend their whole day and often nights perfecting their craft. Mary German, age 31, Elizebeth Given, age 30, and Terri Wilder, age 62, are three women who make up UD’s ceramics graduate program.

UD’s ceramics graduate program accepts a limited amount of people due to the small and communal studio space. The studio is not much larger than a normal classroom, and the tables, shelves and corners are full of diversely-sized ceramic works.

The students are currently preparing for shows, so each of their tables have at least one large and detailed piece in development. Given and Wilder are in their second year, so they are preparing for their MA show. German, having been at UD for three years, is working on her thesis show for her MFA.

The Braniff Graduate School website states that the process is not overly emphasised, but visual integrity is expected.

“[Our thesis] is independent, but they direct us and help us figure it out,” Given said.

The students seem to embrace this freedom.

“We come in with a concept,” German said. “I came in with a really functional background — cups and plates and things like that — and that is where I wanted to continue my research. … It’s up to me to see how this will progress. The professor, if they are a good one, will leave you to progress and discover on your own.”

All of the students agreed that their relationship with Kelly O’Briant is more similar to that of a mentor than a professor. They have no assignments, are self-directed, and are in control of the execution of any project.

Since O’Briant is new this year, the group has had to spend a lot of time redefining their goals for her.

“I don’t really want to be a professor, but I don’t mind teaching,” Given said.

German agreed with Given, and also noted that selling her work is another goal for her. Wilder has slightly different goals for her masters.

“I’m looking at service work, how I can work [this] into how I would be working in the community,” Wilder said. “UD is really wonderful to artists because they give us full scholarship for our graduate program, so I feel an obligation to give back to the community. … I’m looking at some possibilities like grant writing.”

Though none of them went to UD for their undergraduate degrees and spend the majority of their time in the art village, the university has found a very special place in their hearts. They are especially grateful that the university has awarded them each with full scholarships.

“The program here is really great in that we don’t pay tuition,” German said. “Our education is free, so we really try to keep that in the forefront of our minds when we are doing things around here.”

Their dedication to the program and work ethic more than proves their worthiness of a free education. When asked if they have day jobs, all three chimed in simultaneously:

“This is our lives.”

German went on to clarify that they are greatly discouraged from working due to time constraints.

“I know my house is falling apart; sometimes it gets pretty bad before I’m like, something’s gotta happen here,” Wilder said.

German is a wife and mother of two, so she has found herself constantly busy.

“It’s [about] making sure that you’ve got a balance,” German said. “You know you can get your work done and make sure you can still be a human.”

The students will have an art demonstration in Haggar on Oct. 8 and an open studio night in the art history auditorium Oct. 27.  


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