Gama Encore and Catalogue Celebrate Largest Collection of  Intact African Ceramics at Art Museum in the U.S.

Installation view of Shattering Perspectives: A Teaching Collection of African Ceramics (February 21–April 25, 2021 and August 23–December 17, 2023). Image courtesy of Gregory Allicar Museum of Art, Colorado State University. 



Colorado State University’s Gregory Allicar Museum of Art is steward to the largest collection of intact African ceramics at an art museum in the United States. Comprising 183 vessels by artists from over 57 cultures, the teaching collection provides CSU and the larger community with world-class pottery and the opportunity to explore ceramic arts from across Africa. This fall,  GAMA celebrates faculty and student research on the public collection in Shattering Perspectives: A  Teaching Collection of African Ceramics, encoring August 23 to December 17; forthcoming installations in the Lory Student Center; and a curator talk, reception, and exhibition catalogue launch on October  19. The museum’s programming is free and open to all.


Colorado State’s extensive African art collection has grown since the mid-twentieth century, long before the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art was formed as the University Art Museum in 2009. The earliest donations came from Professor of Veterinary Medicine Rob Udall and his wife Dorothy in the  1960s. Later donations were generously given to the university by John and Mary Carlen, who lived and worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in the 1970s, Warren and Genevieve  Garst, and Professor of Pottery Richard De Vore and his wife, Jan. Today GAMA’s African art collection features substantial gifts from Bill Simmons Robert F. Bina, and Delores De Wilde Bina, among  other anonymous donors. 


Shattering Perspectives: A Teaching Collection of African Ceramics is a collaborative exhibition exploring pottery arts from across the African continent. Originally on view from February 21 to April  25, 2021, the show was produced with CSU undergraduates enrolled in a Spring 2020 art history seminar course. The students served as co-curators, authors, and exhibition designers under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Art History and Associate Curator of African Art David Riep while exploring the politics and poetics of museum display alongside pottery’s methods, functions, and symbolisms.  

“The entire Shattering Perspectives project is centered around the Gregory Allicar’s role as a teaching museum, providing an opportunity for learners to actively engage with the vessels themselves,” says  Riep. “It’s a testament to the value of active learning outside of the classroom, and the new  perspectives that can be discovered through working directly with objects.” 

Both the original and encore Shattering Perspectives displays are thematically organized around art versus artifact, misconceptions about “anonymous” artists, pot-making techniques, and visual expressions of identity. These perspectives share insight into working with a teaching collection and the resulting dialogue that develops through direct encounters with art objects and critical texts. The current encore exhibition highlights more than 100 objects by artists from over 50 cultures and is on view in the museum’s Griffin Foundation Gallery until December 17.  

Shattering Perspectives is also accompanied by a new exhibition catalogue, which will be released at  Riep’s curator talk on October 19. Equally collaborative, the publication surveys the museum’s extensive collection of African ceramics through an exhibition inventory and student texts, as well as essays by Patricia Crane Coronel, professor emerita of art history; Del Harrow, associate professor of pottery and sculpture; alumna Brenna McWhorter, class of 2020; and exhibition organizer and lead curator David Riep. 

Museum staff are also working on long-term displays for the Lory Student Center, in partnership with  Riep and Doug Sink with the LSC Arts Program. New cabinetry in the north end of LSC level three will host several dozen vessels in a display similar to the exhibition. 


On Thursday, October 19, Riep will give a lecture on the Shattering Perspectives exhibition and catalogue process. Tracing the project from ideation through Spring 2020 development, and then from the 2021 exhibition through the encore and catalogue expansion this fall, Riep will explain the curatorial and research process and discuss the exhibition’s major themes. 

“Dave’s work with this spectacular collection brings it to life in a way that is exciting for all audiences,”  says Lynn Boland, GAMA director and chief curator. “He’s a huge hit with students, including K-12,  college, and life-long learners. I make it a point to hear him talk whenever I can, especially when the  topic is African ceramics.” 

Riep’s curator talk begins at 5:30 p.m. in the museum’s Robert W. Hoffert Learning Center followed by a reception and catalogue launch at 6:30 p.m. This event is free and open to all. 


Support for the curator talk comes from DATA (Denver-area Art-alumni Transforming the Arts) for  GAMA at CSU. Ongoing support for the museum’s exhibitions and programming is generously provided by the City of Fort Collins Fort Fund, the FUNd Endowment at CSU, and Colorado Creative Industries.  CCI and its activities are made possible through an annual appropriation from the Colorado General  Assembly and federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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