The Material Topics Symposium has been a production of Metal Design MFA students within the School of Art and Design within East Carolina University since 2009. It was initially founded by Laura Wood and has been organized in past years by Kat Cole, Laritza Garcia, Marissa Saneholtz, Danielle James, Alison Bailey and Sarah Loch-Test, Barbara McFadyen and Hosanna Rubio, Holly Roddenbery and Joanne Lang, Adam Atkinson and Nadia Massoud, Carolina Sephra Reyes, Carolyn A Buss, among others (if you’d like to be recognized in this list, please send an email to email@example.com).
In recent years, we have gained the experience of Graphic Design MFA student Kayla Clark now ECU Professor, and recruited the ECU Printmaking Guild to help us hand-print our famous t-shirts, including Printmaking MFA students Claire White and Young-jae Kim.
Our efforts to create a dynamic and inclusive symposium have been generously funded in part over the years by the Grey Gallery, the College of Fine Arts and Communications via Dean Chris Buddo, and the School of Art and Design via Director Kate Bukoski.
Initially, we invited students and faculty from only seven universities. Now, we host students and faculty from over 45 institutions ranging from California to Florida. Our 200+ attendees are beginners, hobbyists, sculptors, professional jewelers and metal artists, and current and retired faculty members. Presenters/lecturers are not repeated, and they are nominated and voted on by members of the ECU Metals Guild, then chosen by the incoming committee.
We have a history of bringing in workshop presenters and lecturers who are blazing new trails in the craft fields. Almost all the artists we invite have some tie to the metalsmithing field, but have sometimes branched out to sculpture or other craft fields. We also are bringing in more curators, collectors, and gallery owners to discuss their views on contemporary art and craft, in particular where it intersects with adornment and metalsmithing.
Another part of our mission with this symposium is we want to bring an affordable symposium to the south-east. Students are on tight budgets, so we feed you along with your registration. A closing party is part of our community building at the end; it is important that we allow artists –student, faculty, or otherwise– a place and time to mingle and let loose!