We had the good fortune of connecting with Nancy Utterback and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nancy, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
I am first a ceramic artist and working in the creative arts teaches us to honor ourselves, tell the truth and always believe that the journey is worth the time, effort and risk. A potter has to learn to live in a comfortable state of uncertainty. Experience has given me the insight to trust the universe and myself. I don’t try to look too far down the path. I always ask myself to give my best and as long as the next step will take me even a little closer to my dream I take it without looking back. It can be amazing to see how far you can come and how the path opens when you simply believe. I never give up. I may shift my expectation or alter my timeline, but we always have the choice to make the world a little better or let it get little worse. I choose to do my best and try to make the world a better place each and every day.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a self taught potter, it took me more that 15 years to realize that I had given myself the greatest gift when I chose to follow my own path and learn on my own. I love working in clay and teaching and that has lead me to creating East Side Art Institute. There are enormous needs in this world. It is always difficult to know where you can do the most good. In a world where hunger is still ever present and we need more assistance with providing needed medicine around the world and a better mental health system, I struggle with where I can make a difference.
I’ve learned that it really does take all of us, doing our part to make significant change. We know by experience and more scientific studies than I can count, that art heals. It makes us whole. It makes us more human and more compassionate and kind. When we give ourselves the opportunity to experience the making of art, even the viewing of art, we become more connected with one another. In founding East Side Art Institute, I want to give everyone, from the very young to the very old the opportunity to fulfill their passion and to find their community. Being part of a community of like minded people helps us help others and age with grace and dignity. As a collective we have more power. If East Side Art Institute can help individuals be healthier and happier they will go back out into the world and support the causes they believe in and make significant change.

We have purchased 14.27 acres in Boulder County to build a campus that will bring resources in the arts to the front range. As an institute we will do research in best practices in the arts and we will be able to research best practices in land management. Our property has been unloved and vacant for more than 20 years. We will bring back the land through regenerative farming and share all of our farming research with the community as well. These are small things in a big world but we can teach and spread the knowledge that our community will come together to study. We will publish our results and teach what we learn. We will build a campus with environmentally sustainable materials and do our best to show that recycling, reuse and carbon neutral energy can and will make an impact.

I have learned that most success comes from doing, showing up, going to the studio everyday even if you are not inspired. Simply doing, being present and true to the practice of your art brings growth. It has been true for studio work, teaching and for building an art institute. None of it is easy but I wouldn’t say it has been hard either. I always follow my heart. I’ve made every mistake in the book and my passion has lasted a lifetime. I am curious, hard working and in love with the clay. Like any relationship it has to be nurtured. My family has had to be patient and independent at times. I have worked extremely long hours with little pay for years at a time. It didn’t matter. I knew it was what I wanted to do, the studio is where I needed to be and I know that building East Side Art Institute is my next step.

Knowing that has made all things possible.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would begin in Boulder. I would take them to breakfast at the Chautauqua Dining Hall and then go for a hike up the mountain. We would head into Boulder and have tea at the Dushanbe Tea house. Before we left the area we would drive at least a portion of the Peak to Peak Highway. The next day we would visit Morrison where I had my first studio and make reservations to eat at the Fort. In the afternoon we could visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre and maybe stay for a concert.
In Denver we would go to the Art Museum, The Botanic Gardens, definitely have lunch at Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax, get ice cream at The Little Man and if there was time take in a play at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

I would take them to the Rino district and visit some studios and galleries in the area including Plynth Gallery to see some great Ceramic art and then have dinner at the Balistrari Vineyards and taste some wonderful Colorado wine.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Without the support of my husband I would never have even become an artist and my students have encouraged challenged and supported me every step of the way.

Website: nancyutterback.com/ eastsideartinstitute.org

Instagram: utterback.nancy/ eastsideartinstitute.org

Linkedin: Nancy Utterback

Facebook: Nancy Utterback/east side art institute

Image Credits
All photos taken by Larry Utterback

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