ASU Art Museum curator honored with ceramic education accolades

April 16, 2014

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. Peter Held (far left), ASU Art Museum curator of ceramics Download Full Image

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."


Juno Schaser,
Public Relations | ASU Art Museum
Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


ASU researchers urge use of alternative ID methods for endangered species

April 17, 2014

In a time of global climate change and rapidly disappearing habitat critical to the survival of countless endangered species, there is a heightened sense of urgency to confirm the return of animals thought to be extinct, or to confirm the presence of newly discovered species. Field biologists traditionally collect specimens to distinguish the animals – or to confirm that they do indeed exist in the wild.

Researchers at Arizona State University and Plymouth University in the United Kingdom want to change the way biologists think about the “gold standard” of collecting a “voucher” specimen for species identification. They suggest that current specimen collection practices may actually pose a risk to vulnerable animal populations already on the brink of extinction. An atelopus varius, a frog species previously believed to be extinct Download Full Image

“We are drawing attention to this issue as an important question bearing on the ethical responsibilities of field biologists," said Ben Minteer, an environmental ethicist and conservation scholar in ASU’s School of Life Sciences. "It concerns not only an increased extinction threat to re-discovered species, but also the collection of specimens from small populations more generally.

“Because these populations are very small and often isolated, they are incredibly sensitive to over-collecting,” added Minteer, also the Arizona Zoological Society Chair at ASU. “Combine the understandable impulse to confirm something really important – such as that a species is not, in fact, extinct – with the sensitivity of a population to collection and you’ve got a potentially significant conservation issue.”

The researchers raise their concerns in the April 18 issue of the journal Science.

In the article, Minteer and his colleagues cite examples of the decline or loss of a range of animal species due to the impact of field collections by both professional scientists and amateur naturalists. There are cases of now-extinct birds, as well as the loss and rediscovery of amphibians in Costa Rica.

Changing the 'gold standard'

The researchers suggest using a combination of modern, non-lethal techniques to confirm a species’ existence, including high-resolution photography and audio recordings of sounds or mating calls. Also, using DNA sampling by taking swabs of the mouth or skin offer molecular techniques that could identify an animal without taking a specimen from the field.

The authors say using modern technologies can be just as effective in identifying an organism and will also avoid increasing the extinction risk for small populations.

“The thrill of rediscovering a species must be one of the most exciting events in a biologist’s life, however it is easy to forget it comes with significant responsibilities," said Robert Puschendorf, a conservation biologist with the School of Biological Sciences at Plymouth University. "What impact are we causing to the species even in this first encounter? The technology is there to gather crucial evidence to substantiate our finding without harming the animals. There is no need to collect by default.”

Puschendorf focuses his work on the impacts of disease and climate change on wildlife.

Biology and ethics

The discussion about replacing non-lethal identification techniques with less-invasive ones is part of a more complex issue. Weighing the benefits of improved scientific understanding of threatened species for conservation against the research impacts on endangered animals is complicated.

“Studying small populations is a special challenge, especially in cases such as amphibians, where species are declining globally, at times to extinction,” said James P. Collins, an evolutionary ecologist and Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in ASU’s School of Life Sciences.

“Our goal is to highlight this challenge while offering options for documenting exciting, interesting and important discoveries," Collins added. "We are emphasizing the need for investigators to reflect on the wider ethical and social implications of their work before or as they conduct the research, and not just after the fact.”

The researchers are calling for this change in hopes of minimizing the impact scientists have on endangered animals, and they are asking biologists around the world to follow suit.

“The time to change is now,” said Minteer. “While we use amphibians as an example in this article, the negative effects of collecting samples from endangered animal populations is a concern that applies across taxa and around the world. The argument that ‘this is how we've always done it’ is not good enough. Especially in the case of rediscovered species, avoiding ‘re-extinction’ should be the primary ethical constraint of any scientific effort to verify a species’ welcome return from the dead."

ASU School of Life Sciences is an academic unit of ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise