Jun 2nd 2022

When Ruth Duckworth arrived in Chicago from London to teach at the University of Chicago’s Midway Studios in 1964, she planned to stay for a year. Instead, she lived in the city for nearly fifty years until her death in 2009—more than half her life. It is strange, then, that she is still primarily known as a “British studio potter,” rather than as an innovative Chicago sculptor, deeply engaged in the natural world, her adopted city, and advanced artistic developments in the U.S. in the 1960s and ’70s.

This symposium makes use of art historical advances of the last several decades to examine her Chicago work in a new light. It investigates the influence of geomorphology and the nascent environmental movement in her work, beginning with her commission to create a complete environment of clay tiles in the vestibule of the newly built Hinds Geophysical Laboratory, moving through her monumental tile mural Clouds Over Lake Michigan, into wall works in high relief, Mama Pots, and clay sculptures.

The symposium is organized by Laura Steward, Curator of Public Art at the University of Chicago, in conjunction with the Smart Museum of Art’s fall 2023 exhibition Ruth Duckworth: Life as a Unity.

This symposium is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring and elevating Chicago’s rich art and design histories and diverse creative communities.


9:30 am
Object viewing
Smart Museum of Art (5550 S. Greenwood Avenue)
Meet at the Smart Museum to view works by Duckworth in the study room. Coffee and light refreshments available in the lobby.

10:30 am
Public Art viewing
Walk to the Logan Center for the Arts, stopping at various campus sites related to Duckworth.

11 am
Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th Street, Performance Penthouse))
Laura Steward, Curator of Public Art at the University of Chicago, and Bill Michel, Associate Provost and Executive Director, UChicago Arts and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts

11:15 am
Presentation and discussion
Matthew Groves, Associate Professor of Fine Arts in Sculpture & Ceramics, Loyola University

12 pm
Presentation and discussion
Jack Schneider, Curatorial Assistant, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; UChicago MAPH ’22

12:45–2 pm
Lunch break

2 pm
Presentation and discussion
Sequoia Miller, Chief Curator, Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art

3 pm

3:15 pm
UChicago undergraduate student panel discussion
Moderated by Amber Ginsburg, Lecturer, Visual Arts, The University of Chicago. Panelists:

  • Natalie Jenkins
  • Kina Takahasi
  • Kate Ferrera
  • Kendra Thornburg-Mueller

4 pm
Closing remarks
Laura Steward

4:30 pm
Kiln House at the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th Street)
Refreshments provided


The conference begins with object viewing at the Smart Museum of Art (5550 S. Greenwood Avenue) before moving to the Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th Street, Performance Penthouse). A closing reception will be held in the Kiln House.

Image: Ruth Duckworth looking at the maquette for Earth, Water, Sky at the Smart Museum of Art in 2005. Photo by Jim Newberry.

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