Heather Bren’s unpredictable art pushes boundaries and excites jurors
Heather Bren, Northwestern College Assistant Professor of Art, has been selected as one of two recipients of the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Ceramic Artists in the amount of $25,000.
The fellowship is awarded annually and is designed to advance and strengthen the work of selected mid-career, Minnesota ceramic artists. Awards may be used to supplement artist living or travel costs, purchase materials and equipment, experiment with new materials and techniques, collaborate with other artists or additional art initiatives.
Bren has been focused on this particular fellowship since she heard about it more than five years ago and is the youngest grant recipient in McKnight history. “It was really an honor to be selected,” said Bren. “I was chosen alongside Linda Christianson a reputable and influential artist of more than 30 years.”
In contrast to Christianson’s traditional and functional work (plates, bowls, pitchers, etc.), Bren’s art is unconventional, or as she puts it, “loud, globby and visually overwhelming.”
This contrast was not lost to fellowship jurors who, according to juror notes, were excited about Christianson’s already established prominence in the field and Bren’s potential to reach that same level.
Over the next several months, Bren will be working in the same vein that she has been, though she plans to explore scale and the creation of larger forms. She also plans to establish and reinforce local and national gallery connections, produce a catalog of her work and set up a permanent artist space in the Twin Cities.
With her professional artwork, collegiate teaching and raising a family, Bren’s schedule is far from dull. She works from home and on campus during her spare time–giving her the opportunity to engage with students as she works. Bren states, “I began my collegiate art career at Northwestern College as a student, and the supportive and encouraging environment on this campus has allowed me the freedom to develop my craft.”
Bren graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern College in 1999 and received her MFA from the University of Kansas in 2003. In 2009 she won the Purchase Prize Award at the NCECA Clay National Biennial, a competition which received more than 1,500 applicants. In addition, Bren was featured as a 2006 Emerging Artist on the Ceramics Monthly website and was awarded the Jerome Clay Artists Project Grant in 2004 from the Northern Clay Center.
Bren’s work will be featured in a group exhibition at the Northern Clay Center in March 2011. In conjunction with the fellowship, she will also participate in a lecture and demonstration in January 2011. Her work is available to view online at heathernamethbren.com.