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vince's nceca review from 500 miles away

updated tue 22 mar 05


David Hendley on sun 20 mar 05

Dear Vince, for pete's sake, please quit telling us how great the NCECA
Conference was. You weren't there.
Of the 7 or 8 conferences I have attended in the last 10 years, this
one ranks dead last in my book.
It was very hard to get a handle on traveling around the city to see the
shows, and many were far away.
As usual, NCECA did not supply enough busses to take people on the
tours. All were sold out in pre-registration, and, once again, in the
late afternoon, people were stranded, not able to board busses because
they were all full.
In Indianapolis, I waited an hour and a half to finally get on a bus, after
6 full ones passed me by. I heard that in San Diego, although I was not
at that one, that people were never picked up and had to hire cabs to get
back to the conference.
This year, total conference registration jumped way up to, I heard, a
record-setting 6800. Don't you think the planners could have enough
foresight to hire enough busses, so everyone who wants to take a tour
can do so?

Not only were there very few appealing lectures and panels, there were
very few, period. In past years, I remember trying to choose between
3 programs which all started at the same time. This year, often there
was only one session starting at a particular time.
And yes, reading over the topics, one gets the feeling that the planners
went out of their way to avoid anything in a practical vein directed at
working potters.
As for feeling marginalized, well, I would like to become a bigger part
of the planning. However, after making the pretty large and time-consuming
effort of jumping through the extensive hoops of submitting a proposal
only to be summarily rejected, one concludes that his time could be better
spent on more productive endeavors.

Yes, it is fun to go to exciting cities.
This has nothing to do with the NCECA Organization. I could go to
Nashville next week and have a great time.

Yes, it's fun to see old friends, Clayarters, and meet new people.
The NCECA Organization has nothing to do with this.

Yes, it's fun and worthwhile to go to the exhibition hall to see all the
The NCECA Organization makes money from this, by charging a
price for booth space. They have nothing to do with the excellent
booths that the exhibitors plan, set up, and staff.

Yes, there are lots of great clay shows and exhibits. I didn't see a lot of
shows because the logistics in Baltimore were horrible, but 2 good
ones I did see were The Clay Times 10th Anniversary Show, and the
Santa Fe Clay "La Mesa" Show. Both were privately planned, promoted
by private posters, and not even in the "official" NCECA show list.

So what did I get for my $180 check to NCECA? Well, let's see, I got
to see an entertaining show at the Randall Session. Nothing to do with
clay, but lots of fun. I got to go to a dance, drink a beer, and hear some
reggae music. Ditto. Saw some good demos. I will get book with reviews
and articles of the programs. This will hopefully arrive before the 2006
Conference. I still have not received my 2004 Journal, which would be
comical were it not so sad.

I made a point asking people I did not know how they liked the conference
program - people I saw in restaurants, at the airport, etc. I especially
approached young student types, who make up at least half of the
attendees. The responses I got indicated that they basically did not bother
going to the irrelevant and boring (to them) sessions. I think many
conference attendees went to only one or two lecture or panel sessions.
The situation in the conference rooms bears this out. The rooms were
HUGE, capable of holding 1000, if not thousands. It was unusual to
see a lecture with more than 10% of the room filled. The conference
attendees were voting on their opinion of the programs with their
conspicuous lack of presence.

David Hendley
I don't know nothin' but the blues, cobalt that is.

Vince Pitelka on sun 20 mar 05

> Dear Vince, for pete's sake, please quit telling us how great the NCECA
> Conference was. You weren't there.

Dear David, for pete's sake, please quit complaining about everything that
is wrong with NCECA, and don't you dare give me crap about the fact that I
wasn't there. I have been to every NCECA in 11 years except for this one.
Yes, this was the biggest one yet, so you can expect some organizational
problems, and yes, the bus transportation often falls short. I haven't
relied on bus transportation at NCECA for many years, because I know how
screwed up it is. I don't know why they can't get it right. So, let's all
admit that the damn bus service is a problem and arrange alternative
transportation. Clayart has the resources to do that.

As far as what the conference has to offer otherwise, I don't buy your
comments one bit. I have heard from enough people about wonderful demos and
great presentations. Sure, some of them suck. That is a real problem with
every academic conference including NCECA. They accept a written proposal,
and then there is absolutely no follow-through to make sure that the
presentation is well-organized and high-quality. I have been to some real
dogs in the past, but this is a problem at all academic conferences, and not
really worth complaining about here.

I don't want to sound like I'm trying to interfere with anyone's freedom of
speech, and in fact would be insulted if it was suggested, but how much good
does it really do to complain about NCECA here on Clayart? If people want
to do some good, they should complain to the NCECA Board of Directors. The
directors need to know how people feel about the way NCECA is run. And
people need to show up at the meetings on Saturday at every conference and
voice their views. Louis Katz has been telling us this for years.
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Technological University
Smithville TN 37166, 615/597-6801 x111,

Louis Katz on mon 21 mar 05

Dear David,

Many people were disappointed in the buses. I did not get to go this
year. The board has probably been made aware of the situation with the
buses but it would be worth repeating especially with specific
complaints, "sold out at preregistration", and strandings. I have been
stranded three times on these tours, but have essentially not been able
to go on them much since 1997 or so. Sometimes I took a quick loop in
the morning but this does not tell you much about how it is working.
Having been involved in troubleshooting them in the past I am amazed
when they work well. The "Stay with the bus" tours are easier to
organize but inflexible. The continuous shuttles are hard, particularly
when the shows are good and the venues far flung. One of the positive
suggestions has been to have some "SOFA-like" shows onsite. I think the
organization may now be able to afford it. It could not five years ago.
When the shows are put up in a museum or other space like this they
also bring clay to the local population. Clay is vital in each of these
communities at least during the month before and after the conference.
This vitality probably lingers.

One of the questions NCECA must ask is, Is it worth changing venues
each year? If this is worth while than there are going to be glitches.
Also there is no way to hire enough buses until you know how many
people are coming. Even then it is hard often to increase the number of
busses at the last minute. I do not know the details of this this year,
but they will not mysteriously appear on this forum. If you want to
know them ask the conference planner. I would expect her to be very
busy early this week.

I attended a long range planning meeting. It was really a brain
storming session about the future. My question was how does NCECA
survive 10,000 registrants. It may be that it can't and that like
clayart (perhaps) after there is a certain number of participants it
becomes too impersonal. Early registration this year greatly
outstripped anyone's expectations as did late registration. Despite the
fact that this has negative impacts on the conference, it does not
point to a rotten conference. CAA and other professional art
conferences are busy trying to emulate NCECA. Registration increases
nearly every year, and whether you think they are or not, the board is
responsive, especially to written complaints. There is a crew, with a
stipend, that tries to make sure media setups work and oversees the big
presentations. Chris Stanley can tell you about this.

I believe that the board, and the new programs director Joe Molinaro,
should seriously consider increasing the number of concurrent
presentations so that rooms are smaller. This will result in the
complaint that there were too many good things at the same time, but
will reduce the size of the rooms. At the same time it will also create
a problem where some rooms are overcrowded.

Many frustrations were caused by the unions dealing with seat set up,
projector setup and the like, I am sure Chris could fill pages. My
concerns I have expressed directly to him and will mirror them to the

The program has very few solicited presentations other than the
Randall, Opening and Closing Lectures. I believe there are also two
solicited lectures. The board does not want to initiate most of the
programs. You want to see something? Find someone to do it. The board
generally is tearing its hair out trying to find glaze doctors and the

The board does not get to take the bus tours often. Too busy, Nor do
they get to see many presentations. When my critique, suggestions, and
worries about the future of NCECA goes to the office I will copy you if
you want, but I won't complain here. It is non productive.

2006 information
2006 proposals

77 Erie Village Square, Suite 280
Erie, Colorado 80516-6996
866-CO NCECA (266-2322) Toll-Free
303-828-2811 Local
303-828-0911 Fax
office at

Executive Director
Nancy A. Steinfurth
nancy at

Conference Planner
Dori Nielsen
dori at
Kim Guetterman
kimg at

Office Manager
Dawn Hesse
office at
Council Bookkeeper
Pam Antell
pama at

On Mar 20, 2005, at 4:56 PM, David Hendley wrote:
> Of the 7 or 8 conferences I have attended in the last 10 years, this
> one ranks dead last in my book.