2017 Bracker Donation Wheel – Winning Appeal Letter

Bracker’s asked for applications for our annual donation of a Brent Model C wheel (the same wheel Bill Bracker always threw on). Anne W, Anne M, and Cindy have been donating a wheel in Bill’s honor each December 1st since 1994 to celebrate his birthday. All we ask is each applicant write 100 to 1000 words or apply in some other creative way (the 2016 recipient was a class who re-wrote the words to a song to ask for the wheel donation and submitted a video of their performance). These are the words that told the best story this year.

When reading about Bill Bracker and his legacy, I am impressed by the influence that he and Anne have had on the clay community in Kansas. Legacy is an interesting concept because something as big as legacy begins with simply getting started, working hard, and having the wisdom to be open to change.

Prairie View High School is a small school in eastern Kansas where the agriculture program and wrestling team reign supreme. Art has slowly grown and found its place at Prairie View. Proving that if you give students a chance to create and be creative, they will gladly take those opportunities.

Prairie View art has definitely stepped up. We have won our league art contest eight out of ten times. I have had two students win the Kansas Youth Art Month contest and win trips to New York City. We attend and do well at ten different art contests each year. We host the Prairie View Art Contest. Prairie View Art has annually hosted Family Art Night for the past fourteen years. Family Art Night brings the community to our school to make art. Also, I have had many students go to college for art and some go on to become art teachers.

Ceramics has been a major part of the growth within the Prairie View art program. Clay was a part of the curriculum before I started teaching at P.V. but it was only taught for one quarter per year.

We turned an old storage room into a pottery studio. Over the past ten years we have accumulated six kick wheels a wedging table and a small pug mill we named Lilly (after a student’s pet pug “Lilly”). Prairie View also added a ceramics class that has twelve students. Six students throw on the potter’s wheels and six students hand-build, each for one semester and then the next semester they switch places. The ceramics class was able to attend the NCECA conference when it was in Kansas City. This was a once in a lifetime experience for most of them and they returned excited and ready to make pottery.

The Prairie View Art program has grown and is now one of largest programs in the school with 150 students in art classes out of 350 students that are enrolled in P.V. high school.

Bracker’s Good Earth Clays has played an important role in the growth of Prairie View art. I remember my first trip to Bracker’s with students. They were so excited to be in a store filled with clay tools, glaze, and more clay than they could imagine. My students have taken many solo trips to Bracker’s to get supplies (and hangout in Lawrence) and always return with stories of how well they were treated by everyone at Bracker’s. Students have gone to the raku firings at Bracker’s and Dave has come to raku firings that we have participated in at Wellsville High School. We have taken field trips to Bracker’s and been given tours of the warehouse. Bracker’s staff sang Happy Birthday to me when I visited for my fortieth birthday. Dave Sturm literally cheered when I told him that my wife and I were having another child. As much as any business can be, Bracker’s is like family to me and to my students. They tell me stories of what Anne taught them about applying glaze or why Dave told them to order one clay body over another. I am thankful for all that you have done to help and to inspire my students and all that you have done to help me both as a teacher and as a ceramic artist.

As I have shown Bracker’s has already had a great influence on Prairie View Art. I think of the potter’s wheel as a gateway drug for art. I have found that if I can get a student to sit down on a potter’s wheel and attempt to throw, that I can get them hooked and they will love pottery (and all visual art) for life. Our administration is supportive, however our budget is still limited. Another potter’s wheel means two more students get to be in the ceramics class per year. That is a major difference in our small school.

I would like to thank you for considering Prairie View art for the donation of a potter’s wheel. The potter’s wheel would greatly affect and be greatly appreciated by the Prairie View High School art students and the community of northern Linn County.

Thank you for all that you have already done in helping us to build our legacy of creativity and hard work and helping us to show our small community the importance of arts education.

Thank you,
Joe Summers and Prairie View Art

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