By Published: Nov. 6, 2023

Betty Woodman

Betty Woodman in her studio in Antella, Italy, 2012.

For decades, Boulderites have enjoyed affordable ceramics education programming at the Boulder Pottery Lab, perched in the University Hill neighborhood within the historic Fire Station No. 2.

The hub of local creativity began as an innovative vision of the late Betty Woodman — master potter and CU Boulder professor for 30 years. Upon moving to Colorado, Woodman persuaded the city of Boulder in 1954 to open a recreational ceramics program that grew from seven students to 400 in 15 years. In her tenure at CU Boulder, she most likely taught thousands of students, said Scott Chamberlin, ceramics professor.

“She mentored some of the most important artists and teachers in the nation,” Chamberlin said. “You will not find a ceramic artist who has studied American ceramics that does not know [of] her, many personally.”

Originally run by the Parks and Recreation Department for over 60 years, the Boulder Pottery Lab was the first city-supported pottery program in the country. In 2015, the Parks and Recreation Department entered a public-private partnership with Studio Arts Boulder to manage and operate the facility.

Throughout her rich career spanning nearly seven decades, Woodman became known for altering the perspective of pottery from functional objects to fine art. During her time as a postwar American artist, her work was showcased worldwide in more than 100 solo exhibitions, including a 2006 retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which gave her the unique distinction as the first living female ceramicist to receive such an honor.

At CU Boulder, ceramic objects acquired during Woodman’s three decades of teaching are displayed as part of the Woodman Study Collection in the Visual Arts Complex.

“During critiques, her hands were never still — she was always touching the pieces on the table,” said Jeanne Quinn, a former student of Woodman who is now a professor of ceramics at CU Boulder. “She used her senses with amazing precision.”

In honor of Woodman and her legacy at CU and in the Boulder community, the university created the Betty Woodman Fund in 2023 to support emerging ceramics artists and faculty professionals in the ceramics program. The fund also provides stipends for the Woodman Artists Residency, which provides one to two artists the opportunity to stay and create art for several weeks in the former home of Betty and her husband George Woodman, located in the rural Tuscan region of Italy.

“For her, ceramics was the crown jewel in all of the arts, the one that allowed touch and taste and sight and sound,” said Quinn. “She showed this to us.”

To support the Betty Woodman Fund, visit here and note “Betty Woodman” in the comment section of your gift details at checkout.

Submit feedback to the editor

Photo by Betty Woodman Collection, Woodman Family Foundation Archives, New York. Photo: Stefano Porcinal.