Department of Art + Design Receives $25K Grant for New Kiln from Windgate Foundation

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A new state-of-the-art electric kiln made possible by a grant from the Windgate Foundation in Arkansas will offer ceramics students in the Department of Art + Design at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi the ability to create larger sculptural work.

This summer, Windgate approved a $25,000 grant to purchase and install a ceramics kiln at the Island University by Sept. 1, 2021, to support the work created by undergraduate arts students as well as Master of Fine Arts students. Windgate has provided funding support for contemporary craft and visual arts since 1993.

Louis Katz, Interim Chair of the Department of Art + Design and Professor of Art, said the new 20-cubic-foot programmable front-loading kiln will allow for carefully controlled firings of bigger ceramic pieces that were previously difficult or tedious to do in the department’s existing array of kilns, which include two small octagonal electric kilns, a small front-loading electric kiln, two regular gas kilns, and one kiln designed for vapor firing.

“In contrast to other types of kilns where work has to be lowered in, this kiln will allow work to be slid in on sand or lowered into place with a hand-operated lifting device,” Katz said. “Programmable kilns have revolutionized firing allowing thicker work to be fired successfully with shorter firing cycles and creating opportunities for more exacting control of cooling allowing for other surfaces.”

Katz said the new kiln is ideally suited to the unique conditions of the Island University’s marine environment. The island’s high level of humidity requires that work must be fired more slowly or pressure from steam formed in the work can cause it to explode. The ability to set the kiln to hold at just below the boiling point of water will vastly improve project outcomes.

“Many of our ceramics graduate students will prefer the capability the kiln offers rather than the compromises our current kilns demand,” Katz said. “The availability of this large electric kiln will likely change the nature of the glazes and other surfaces we use. Electric kilns generally fire with cleaner atmospheres producing brighter colored glazes.”

The ceramics curriculum at the Island University dates to the late ‘70s when Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Emeritus Sculpture Professor Greg Reuter launched the program. Today, the curriculum’s courses are taught by Katz, who joined the Art Department faculty in 1994, and Richard James, Assistant Professor of Art. In this area of study, students learn basic skills of working with clay, including mixing and firing clay, and develop personal style and experiment with glazing techniques as they progress.     

 “This new kiln will help the Island University compete larger Texas schools for the top talent in the field of ceramics,” Katz said.