Kelli Rae Adams’ “work/study” exhibition brings change to student debt perceptions at UCM

Attending university is not a cheap endeavor in the United States. Time Magazine reports that the mean amount borrowed per student completing a four-year degree hovers around the $37k mark. 

Artist Kellie Rae Adams puts this total into perspective with her “work/study” exhibit.  For Adams, this amount is hand-spun clay bowls, filled to the brim with pocket change. 

Adams describes her inspiration for this project as “the ceramic bowl in my home that was the designated receptacle for loose change.” 

The idea of that bowl was to gather money to be put towards her college plans. Taking her personal anecdote and combining it with her beautiful pottery work, she spent three-quarters of an hour creating and detailing each bowl by hand.  

Using her own workspace and online research, Adams approximated that each pint-sized dish holds between $40 and $50. 

Adams dedicated this piece to her longtime friend, Larry Bush, who inspired the exhibition. 

She says each and every bowl is finely detailed; “for me, each piece is an exercise in mindful attention, and it’s important to me to give each moment of the process its due.” 

The exhibition, titled “work/study,” aims to make the volume of this five-figure amount tangible. Creating the clay bowls demonstrates the physical labor that is put into collecting this debt. 

Her exhibition found its way to UCM while Adams was completing a residency in Nebraska. 

Adams made her way to Kansas City to visit a few of her artist friends, Marco Rosichelli & Melanie Johnson, who made it possible for the exhibition to be housed at the UCM art gallery. 

Thankfully, this opportunity fell at the perfect time, as she was desiring a new location for January of 2020.

When this exhibition concludes, the collected change will go towards its intended purpose, paying student debts. After UCM, Adams’ “work/study” exhibition will travel to other campuses during the election season, due to student loan debt being such an important speaking point. 

After the exhibition is over, she will put one half of the change towards her own debts and donate the other half. The bowls themselves, she hopes, will be repurposed to be useful again once mailed to contributors.

As for her personal art studio, Adams keeps the bowls that she feels aren’t up to display standards; only the “cast-offs and misfits” stay in her own home. 

Rarely does she collect her own pieces. Adams shares her personal story about needing plates for her apartment but never getting the time to make them. 

She uses an analogy in Spanish that fits this well: “En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo.” “In the house of the blacksmith, a knife made of wood.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *