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Ceramicist Shares His Joy With New Collection At The Currier

The Currier Museum of Art's latest exhibition features the work of Philadelphia-based potter Roberto Lugo. Lugo finds inspiration for his work in his upbringing and his cultural heritage.

His new collection, Te traigo mi le lo lai -- I bring you my joy, will be on display at the Currier Museum through September. Lugo will also be in Manchester this summer for a residency with the museum, where he'll be teaching pottery classes.

Below are some excerpts from Robert Lugo's conversation with NHPR's Rick Ganley. 

On Lugo’s inspiration:

I've always found that it's important for me as a person to not forget where I'm from. I'm from Philadelphia in a really impoverished neighborhood, mostly made up of Black and Latinx people. And so I identify and associate that as a culture and as almost its own society. And so in the tradition that people have represented their cultures in pottery, I do that.”

On his new exhibition, Te traigo mi le lo lai -- I bring you my joy:

One of the reasons why I personally make the work I do and I fight for the things I fight for is because I really love making pottery, and I really love the community that it has exposed me to. And it has also given me a purpose in my life that I never had before. And so I wanted to share that joy, the joy that I have of my family, the joy that I have of pottery. And I wanted to do it in a way that could be understood by a broad audience.”

On the Puerto Rican and Americana rural farm imagery in his pottery:

“My family being from Puerto Rico, I think a lot of people have an image in their mind of what Puerto Rican life is like. But both my parents grew up on farms…And so in the show, you see portraits of my family integrated with imagery that you would be accustomed to seeing an American sort of like farmhouse or something like that. So, for example, there's these three canisters. There are those white canisters you have on your countertop and one says flour and one says sugar. And so I have two of those. But then I have one that says adobo, which is a spice that most people, even if you're not Puerto Rican, are accustomed to using or seeing. You know, that's really part of the work is like figuring out how to represent my culture and my people and do it alongside of the people I found myself next to.”

On his work as an educator to create more opportunities for people of color to engage with the arts:

“I love to talk about my work in relationship to education, in relationship to other things, because I kind of feel like with my work and what I'm trying to say, there's bigger implications. It's not just quite literally about pottery, it's about fostering the idea that people can be anything they want, regardless of how humble their roots are. And so I'm hoping if people tune in, they'll be inspired to just find their own voice and follow along with my career and work.”

You can watch a recent talk with Roberto Lugo hosted by the Currier Museum of Art here.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.
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