Peter Held, curator of ceramics for the ASU Art Museum’s Ceramics Research Center, was honored in March 2014 with two of the highest accolades possible within the field of ceramic education: the Smithsonian’s James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Educator Award and the National Council for Education on the Ceramic Arts Honorary Member Award.
The James Renwick Alliance presents the Distinguished Educator Award every other year, honoring up to five educators for their outstanding ability to increase awareness and appreciation for the history and traditions within the field of craft, a reputation for excellence and innovation in education, and for significant contributions to American education in the craft field. Held, along with fellow awardees Dan Dailey, Glen Kaufman and Patti Warashina, was honored at a special brunch event on March 30, in Washington, D.C., as part of the James Renwick Alliance’s 2014 Spring Craft Weekend.
The National Council for Education on the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) presents the Honorary Member Award to individuals who have made an outstanding life-long contribution to the professional development of the ceramic arts in accordance with criteria established by the council's board of directors. Both Held and artist Richard Notkin were presented with the award at the 48th Annual NCECA Conference in Milwaukee, Wisc., March 19-22.
Held received his bachelor’s degree in studio art from the State University of New York at Brockport. Upon graduation, he moved to Helena, Mont., to become a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts (1974-1976). He later completed a master’s degree in museum administration at Oregon State University and interned at the Portland Art Museum in the Asian Art Department.
In 1994, Held returned to Helena to serve as executive director and curator of the Holter Museum of Art, where he successfully led a $2.3 million capital and endowment campaign. Since 2003, he has been curator of ceramics at the Ceramics Research Center.
Held has curated over 100 exhibitions, including seven national traveling ceramic shows, has authored numerous articles on contemporary art and crafts, and is the editor and essayist of 10 books.
The ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center and Peter Held received the 2007 CLAY Award (Ceramic Lifetime Achievement Award) from the Friends of Contemporary Ceramics, the leading organization of ceramic collectors, art dealers and curators in the United States. The award is given for lifetime achievement in advancing the field.
“(Held has done) more for ceramics and its scholarship, more for securing legacy for our major players, more for our recent history, than anyone else in our field, but does so without fanfare,” said Garth Clark, 2001 recipient of the NCECA Honorary Member Award, in a statement nominating Held for the NCECA award.
ASU School of Art faculty member Susan Beiner, who also nominated Held for the NCECA award, praises not only Held’s exemplary contributions to the field of ceramics, but also his contributions to ASU: “He is supportive for all the students interested in ceramics as our programs work side by side offering each other assistance whenever needed. Whether a visiting artist, graduate student public lecture or a student internship, (Held) offers his opinion and guidance to the situation.”
Countless other leaders within the field also speak highly of Held’s career and achievements:
“I count (Held) as among the leaders in curators and authors of contemporary ceramic art,” praises ceramic artist Richard Notkin. “He possesses an extensive knowledge of historical and contemporary art (and is nationally recognized as an expert in contemporary American ceramic art), tremendous enthusiasm and intelligence, and a strong personal commitment (to the field) … Held’s reputation among his colleagues and contemporaries (is) that of a highly dedicated and generous individual.”
"Held is a brilliant curator,” says Gordon Knox, ASU Art Museum director. “He is a sensitive and insightful scholar of contemporary crafts. He is also an institution-builder, creating a solid network of support for the Ceramics Research Center. But first and foremost, he is an educator. Everything he does – from exhibitions, to research, to institutional advancement – ensures the ongoing engagement of the next generation in the glorious tradition and unexpected innovations of the field.
“That these august institutions are recognizing Held for his role as educator is timely,” Knox adds. “His greatest contribution to the field is seen in the careers of the scores of energetic young artists and curators inspired by his vision, informed by his knowledge and empowered by their engagement with crafts through Held’s guidance."