Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Trackside Studios’ ‘Mentor’ exhibit showcases educators, their students in collaborative ceramics show

Trackside Studios unveiled their “Mentor” exhibit on First Friday, showcasing the work of local university professors and their select students.

The project is the brainchild of curator Chris Kelsey, who was inspired when he taught a ceramics class at Gonzaga University for a semester.

Kelsey worked with a student who had great potential as an artist, but art wasn’t her major, so she was barred from being featured in Gonzaga’s end-of-the-year art show last year. Kelsey saw this as an opportunity to display this student’s work and that of other young ceramic artists who needed a place to start.

“It will raise their professionality,” Kelsey said. “They have to think about pricing, marketing, website stuff – all the things that artists need to do and think about in the real world, so I feel like it’s a great learning experience.”

Kelsey thinks “Mentor” will “hopefully build some community” among the artists as they see each other’s work.

The exhibit will also feature work from Chris Tyllia, a ceramics professor at Eastern Washington University, and two of his students, Kyle Swiderski and Katie Kannberg.

“It’s really difficult sometimes to get your foot in the door without an introduction or without some sort of introducing opportunity,” Tyllia said.

He says it’s scary for students to go from showing their artwork “in class to people that you know are kind of doing the same thing, to showing it to the general public.”

“Mentor” is a “real world experience that we can’t really replicate in the classroom,” Tyllia said.

As a student at EWU, Kannberg said she hopes to use this opportunity to refine her career in the arts. When she started college, she was majoring in accounting, but when the pandemic forced her to start learning virtually, she found herself searching for more hands-on activities.

“My parents actually encouraged me to do art,” Kannberg said.

She decided to take a quarter of school off during the pandemic.

“During that time, I started painting a lot,” she said, “I actually did ceramics all throughout high school … I really enjoyed it, but I got some doubt from teachers and didn’t really see it as a potential career.”

With immense encouragement from her parents, Kannberg went back to EWU with a new-found curiosity for art, and she took a painting class to test the waters.

“They push me to do what makes me happy,” she said, “… like working more with my hands, the whole process of creating.”

Tyllia, Kannberg’s professor, said she has a real interest in color.

“I just really pushed her glaze as much as possible,” Tyllia said. “To learn about which different glaze materials make which different colors.”

Tyllia finds that he and his students go through an “investigation.”

“Painters have it easy, they can squeeze the tube out and see the color right away,” Tyllia said he tells his students. “In ceramics, we have to guess what colors will become beforehand.”

Tyllia and Kannberg each mentioned their skill in the glazing process, and they have both discovered new methods that will be featured in their displays.

This isn’t the first time Tyllia’s work will be displayed in this gallery space.

About 16 years ago, Tyllia got his start in the same space Trackside Studios is occupying now.

“It’s like full circle,” he said. “I was able to sell work out of that gallery, which was huge for me at the time. It’s the same space that was so important to me as a college student. It’s really neat to allow these current college students to have a similar opportunity.”