In a farming community in the middle of nowhere, and in a family of German homesteaders in the flat plains of the midwest, is a community where everybody knows everybody. If a roof needs to be replaced, the community would come together to do that. Playing in creeks and in the dirt, it was not uncommon to come home after dark. This ceramic professor holds close to her a loving family of makers; her pattern maker grandfather, seamstress grandmother, and musician father. It was her family that fostered her creative gifts by example.
She is the caring daughter that took care of her father at the end of his life, who passed away of cancer. She was just out of high school and starting college as her father got sick, creating a tectonic shift in her life. He was the “biggest thing” in her life. “He was such a supportive dad, especially when it came to creativity as he was a local legend musician. He had a classic 70’s rock vibe. He played drums, bass, clarinet, and sang; a multi-talented musician.”
This goes to show why she is such an understanding instructor. When she sees that students are going through those life shifts, she seemingly can’t help but relate. “She fosters an environment where students feel comfortable to learn, and a safe place to express their true selves. She is encouraging, supportive, and patient, encouraging students to explore their own creative style and positively supports them along the way. Her passion for ceramics is contagious,” said ceramic student Hope Cooper.
Starting her higher education at Ohio State, this professor double majored with her Bachelors of Fine Arts of Ceramics, and Bachelors of Science in Chemistry. At The University of New Mexico, she attended grad school where she received a Masters of Fine Arts in Studio Arts. It was in grad school that she was encouraged to explore creatively and has been known for her sculptures. She has a host of mediums such as photography, painting, designing wallpaper, but the tactile process of clay is her passion.
Professor Renee McKitterickdoesn’t feel so much like a “teacher” as much as the leader of a collaboration. She knew she wanted to be a professor by age 19 because of the environment of life that academics creates. With visual communication, she can provide her students the tools to succeed, while simultaneously allowing failure to be safe and ok. Preferably referred to as ‘Renee’, she has been teaching ceramics for 13 years, providing a space and opportunity to be creative, safe, and fun. “A space for artists to do their thing and support each other,” said Renee.
Ceramics is hard but thanks to Renee’s thoughtful efforts, students have the elegant path from structure to planning and to wheel. Students learn all about where clay comes from and how the firing process works. Much of Renee’s experience came from “learning from her mentors at Ohio State, which has a huge ceramics department.” Ceramics used to be considered industry and it wasn’t until the 1970s was it considered fine art.
Her goal is to continue to expose students and community members to the experience of drinking from their own handmade cups. The “wild” experience of being a maker.
Renee often refers back to her favorite poem, to which she quotes; “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees, For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on.” -Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.
Renee describes the meaning of this poem as “we belong to a larger connection to one another to this earth, that you get to belong to this flock of geese.”