Rivers of Clay

Winter 2018 and Spring 2018 quarters

Taught by

Evan Blackwell
ceramic art, sculpture, visual studies
freshwater ecology, quantitative biology, environmental education
  • UG

This program, co-taught by a ceramic artist and a river scientist, gives students the opportunity to explore the similarities between artistic and scientific processes of inquiry while learning about the practical applications of ceramic art and stream ecology. We will explore the complicated relationships between rivers and clay, and how each can help to create and shape the other. We will learn about how rivers work, how to measure them to better understand them, and about the diverse organisms that call rivers home. We will learn about the physical and chemical structure of clay, glazes, and their mineral elements. In both quarters, students will discuss assigned readings in seminars. They will engage in active writing exercises and rigorous two-dimensional and three-dimensional visual art work in ceramics, mixed-media sculpture, and drawing. Students will also research experiences in stream ecology.

In the winter quarter, students will gain experience in the studio and the laboratory, learning the fundamentals of working with clay and the fundamentals of working with microscopes and other lab and field equipment. Students will take several day trips and one overnight trip to local environments to examine and collect sources of clay and to implement a variety of field methods in stream ecology.

In the spring quarter, we will continue to master concepts in ceramics and ecology. Our program will culminate in a multiday field trip to the desert Southwest to learn about traditional Japanese and Native American clay techniques—and to learn about the unique challenges faced by desert rivers. Students will formulate research questions that will be addressed using group research projects in both stream ecology and ceramics.

Program Details

Fields of Study

art history biology ecology environmental studies visual arts

Preparatory For

art history, biology, ecology, environmental studies, and visual arts


Winter Open Spring Signature

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$175 in winter for an overnight field trip and studio supplies; $600 in spring for museum entrance fees, studio supplies, and an overnight field trip to the Southwest.