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Aesthetics of Influence is an exhibition project that celebrates how ideas and inspirations are explored, embraced, and transformed as they flow from one source to another.

First, this exhibition highlights a very special time in Berea College history. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the famed English studio potter David Leach made two visits to Berea College, where he conducted workshops on campus. Through these events, Leach engaged with Berea’s ceramics students and the clay community at large, sharing not only his technical expertise, but also, the values that shaped his life as a craftsman. To celebrate this interaction and its resulting influence, we have showcased a collection of pieces made by Leach along with ceramics created by students and residents who were able to meet him during his time at Berea. By showing these pieces together, along with personal reflections of those events, we aim to create a “time capsule” that archives this special time at Berea College.

The second component of this exhibition explores a broader stream of activity from which David Leach himself emerged. David Leach’s father, Bernard Leach, is a legendary figure in the history of ceramics. Often heralded as the “father of British studio pottery,” Bernard Leach’s own approach to ceramics was heavily impacted by aesthetics and philosophies associated with Japan’s mingei or “people’s art” movement – an endeavor in which he was an instrumental part.

Though not without its critics and contradictions, the mingei movement at large is credited with bringing forth a renewed interest in folk art and crafts, setting in motion a wave of philosophical and artistic inspiration that found fertile ground in the international ceramics community. To explore this particular trajectory, we have also displayed ceramic wares created by some of the movement’s most prominent affiliates. Through their work and biographies, one can see how these figures not only interacted with one another, but helped to propel mingei-inspired values over space and time.

Ultimately, by highlighting both the broad wave of the mingei movement and the intimate interaction between David Leach and Berea College, this exhibit seeks to acknowledge how various seeds of inspiration migrate and grow between people and places. Through this collection, we hope you can see an example of how intricate strands weave together to form the artistic histories that surround us, collectively forming our larger creative experience.