in residence brings
visual arts to Oldham County
native shares her ceramic know-how
Helen E. McKinney
CRESTWOOD, Ky. (August 2010) Marie-Elena Ottmans
career path has been an interesting one. She left her job as a paralegal
to follow her hearts desire, creating ceramics.
County Schools Arts Center
Ottmans ceramic artwork combines her Panamanian and American
Ottman is originally from Panama, where her father was
stationed with the U.S. Air Force. Ive always been involved
in the arts, she said. With her mothers encouragement, at
a young age she found her passion ceramics. But her mother
was very realistic as well, telling Ottman, You cant make
it as an artist in Panama.
Years later, Ottmans boss encouraged her to go to art school.
After living in Panama for 21 years, Ottman moved to the United States
and resided in Florida, Montana and Kentucky. At the University of Louisville,
she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in ceramics.
Ottman was hired as the 2010-1011 Artist-In-Residence at the Oldham
County Schools Arts Center in Crestwood. She is the head of the Ceramics
program and will teach community programs and visit the different schools
within the school district to work alongside teachers and students.
This is the first offering in ceramics that weve had,
said Alvin MacWilliams, executive director of the Arts Center. I
think shell do a fantastic job bridging life experiences around
the county between young and old. She relates to people well.
MacWilliams said there is such a need in the community and school
district for students to have this type of artform.
She is at the top of her game as a teacher and artist, he
continued. We look for someone who has a real passion for teaching
Each year the Arts Center offers classes in a different artistic discipline
through its Artists-In-Residence program. Three years ago music was
taught by Harry Pickens and dance was taught last year by Sherri Lanie.
These courses are offered to supplement and enhance what is already
being done, said MacWilliams. The majority of the district
does not have the facilities to produce the kind of ceramics program
we want to do. We want to create a project that will enhance what the
teachers are already doing.
This is a great opportunity as an artist, said Ottman of
her position as head of the Ceramics Department at the Arts Center.
Ceramics is my passion. Its also a great chance to learn
from young kids, since children are not as limited in their thinking
as adults, she said.
By being a Crestwood resident, she is in touch with local art
offerings. Because of this, she can customize and develop needs,
said MacWilliams. Another huge benefit to having her at the Arts
Center is her Spanish-speaking skills.
Ottman was the instructor for four summer camps at the Arts Center this
year in which she taught all the foundations of ceramics including the
wheel and slab rolling. You can create literally anything out
of clay, Ottman tells her classes.
Ottman began her art career as a painter and now wants to combine both
mediums into her own unique style. She uses the ancient technique of
coil building in her ceramics, blending traditional techniques with
contemporary ideas. She has always been attracted to ancient pre-Columbian
artifacts, such as those found in her native Panama.
Ottmans colorful and intriguing artwork has been featured in 500
Animals in Clay: Contemporary Expressions of the Animal Form,
and on PBS Kentucky Life, Mainstreet and Bluegrass
and Backroads. She is a former Artist-In-Residence for the Kentucky
Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville.
Ottman is also a substitute teacher for art classes at Bellarmine University
in Louisville. She lives in Crestwood with her husband Shawn Ottman
and their two children.
For more information on course offerings
at the Oldham County Schools Arts Center, contact the Oldham County
Schools Arts Center at (502) 241-6018.
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