A race to build clay masterpieces will bring Missouri high school students together in Springfield tomorrow. The event, called “Clay It Up,” includes ten high schools and seven colleges.

The high schools will be competing in a variety of live individual and team events. The event will also include a silent pottery auction.

There will be a college fair, along with demonstrations put on by college professors.

Ryan Widel, the founder of “Clay It Up,” describes the event as a track meet for high school ceramic artists.

“The big reasons why I even started Clay It Up is I wanted people to understand what kind of goes into clay, the process of clay, because so much of the students skills is not just represented in the finished piece. But it’s how they’re building the piece,” he told Missourinet. “It’s every push and pull of the clay. And you don’t get to see that in the final piece, generally.”

Widel, who is also a Nixa High School art teacher, said he wants more spectators at the event. “Clay It Up” is free and open to the public.

“They enjoy watching things,” he said. “Whether it’s watching the pottery at Silver Dollar City, or whatever, people enjoy watching people create. Here’s this event where they can watch a lot of young artists working, but I just don’t think they know about it.”

The concept of “Clay It Up” came from Widel’s research on his thesis in graduate school.

“Just thinking of ways to get my students’ work and efforts out there, kind of trying to even showcase our department as a whole. I was actually coaching track and field at that time. And just as an artist’s mind does, one thing led to another and here we are,” said Widel.

The event has been around since 2019.

“Students now really want most things instant gratification,” he said. “They want the feedback right then, whereas clay is a step-by-step process. “It really teaches them to slow down and pay attention. Everything from the creative process, the multitude of steps that it takes, just the physicality of it, the interaction of the clay, the fine motor skills, the gross motor skills, the hand eye coordination, all of that combined with the skills and the techniques of that it takes.”

The event will be at Kickapoo High School in Springfield on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information about “Clay It Up,” click here.

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