CPE – The Hidden Treasure - by Sue Stelzmann
If you have lived in Tallahassee for a while, you may have come across a curious pottery studio nestled deep within FSU’s campus in a little white house.
Since the 70’s, the Center for Participant Education (CPE) has offered courses for free to anyone who wants to learn (and for anyone who wants to teach). A noble idea of “free” education. CPE still exists but the pottery building and the woodworking next door do not look like much is going on. Recently I got news that the Master Craftsman folks were going to take all the equipment and store it in their facility. A recent trip to CPE Pottery confirmed that there are no more kilns, wheels or slab rollers. Heavy sigh.
Mixed feelings certainly on the demise of this mighty place. I first took classes with Robin Rogers, Mark Fletcher and other folks there in the late 80’s early 90’s. In the early 2000’s, I ran the classes and tried to take care of the shop. CPE is a byzantine enterprise and coordinating clay purchases through their non-profit status was as covert as any CIA operation. Trying to keep the equipment running on love and idealism did over time leave the place abandoned and left to the whims of the next well intentioned clay artists. It was a place where the person with the key ran the place. And the key was handed down from one trusted soul to the next. I know of few of you have been the “key holders” and I bet you have your own stories.
CPE Pottery had its strengths. For those “key holders” who made the effort, they could run the place without much interference and allow for others to enjoy making for the first time without much cost. But the drawbacks were plenty. Those that ran the place could be restrictive and cliquish, ruling the kilns and not allowing for outsiders. In my case, I felt like I was donating tons of time and energy in a place that could not be sustained. I don’t even remember the people I handed the key to next.
So what is the next chapter? There are only four clay studios in Tallahassee - Lafayette, Lemoyne, Senior Center, and Oglesby Union. The rest are through FSU and a few schools. Will Master Craftsman be the next clay studio for the people? I am hopeful that something good will come of it. Maybe this will be a project for one of our members to research and find out more? Connecting with Master Craftsman would be very beneficial… let’s build those bridges!