Grant Helps School of Fine Arts Fund New Kilns for Ceramics Program

Friday, August 12, 2011

A grant from the George W. Bowers Family Charitable Trust will allow the Fairmont State University Department of Art to purchase modern and energy-efficient kilns for its growing Ceramics program.

The $16,000 grant, received by the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc. on behalf of the FSU School of Fine Arts, will assist with the replacement of the two primary kilns in the Department of Art’s popular Ceramics program. The grant was submitted by Peter Lach, Dean of the School of Fine Arts, and Jeff Greenham, Assistant Professor of Art.

“The Bowers Family Charitable Trust is a direct result of the success of Bowers Pottery started in 1904, which grew to become one of the largest porcelain bathroom fixture makers in the country. So it seems poignant that FSU is receiving a grant toward the purchase of new kilns for the ceramics program. It ties FSU to the important ceramics and glass history of the state,” Greenham said.

The George W. Bowers Family Charitable Trust was established to aid specific public or charitable, civic and governmental agencies and Section 501(c)(3) organizations with distributions for charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational purposes with emphasis on Mannington or Marion County.

Bowers, a Mannington businessman whose businesses included the Bowers Pottery Company and the Warwick China Company, died in the 1940s and left his estate to his three daughters, who continued to live in the family home in Mannington.

Frances Bowers, his last remaining daughter, died in March 2000.  In her will, she directed that a portion of the Bowers family estate establish the George W. Bowers Family Charitable Trust.  The Trust is managed by WesBanco Bank, Inc. and has a Trust Advisory Committee that participates in the process of determining the annual grants and scholarships provided by the Trust, which is led by Bruce Bandi under the administration of WesBanco Trust and Investment Services.

“If it were not for the foresight of Frances Bowers, none of us would be here today,” Bandi said to those gathered for the grant award ceremony at Mannington City Hall on July 28.

Nineteen grants were awarded at the event. Also attending the ceremony on behalf of WesBanco Trust and Investment Services were Aaron Hawkins and Heidi Kemp.

“It is wonderful to see dollars going back into Marion County,” Hawkins said.

In thanks for the grant, Greenham presented Bandi and Hawkins with a hand-thrown glazed porcelain piece that he created. Greenham’s works are part of numerous private and corporate collections and have been exhibited widely. His work is also featured in the book “500 Vases,” published by Lark Books of Asheville, N.C.

The award to the School of Fine Arts will result in more opportunities for students and the community. Currently, about 100 students a year take classes in Ceramics and go through about 3 tons of materials. Some students, such as those in Studio Art or Art Education, are required to take ceramics as part of their major, but many other non-majors become interested in Ceramics as a hobby. The Ceramics program uses a gas-fired kiln that is more than 40 years old and an electric-fired kiln that is 20 years old. Both kilns are at the end of their life spans and must be replaced as soon as possible.

“Having such outdated kilns is a serious roadblock toward the growth of the Ceramics program, which is very popular among our students. The School of Fine Arts would like to put in place equipment that can satisfy increased student enrollment and community-based instruction through our Center for the Arts initiative,” said Peter Lach, Dean of the School of Fine Arts. “New kilns would make the program more ‘green’ by cutting utility costs by 40 percent, and the updated technology now available would improve safety concerns, allow more consistent control and cut down on labor needed for the firing process.”

Replacing both kilns will cost about $38,500, and the grant means that more than half the funds are now in place. The School of Fine Arts has contributed $5,000 to the project and is committed to raising the remaining funds needed.In the spring, the Department of Ceramics raised $1,500 through the sale of 80 planters made from clay reclaimed from the traps in the sinks in the studio.

Those who may be interested in making a donation toward the project should contact Peter Lach, Dean of the School of Fine Arts, at (304) 367-4219 or

The mission of Fairmont State University is to provide opportunities for individuals to achieve their professional and personal goals and discover roles for responsible citizenship that promote the common good.

The mission of the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc. is to support, through ethical stewardship, the missions of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College. The Foundation will identify, establish and cultivate meaningful relationships with Fairmont State and Pierpont alumni and potential and existing funding constituencies to meet contributor needs.

About the photo:

 Pictured from left to right are Jeff Greenham, Peter Lach, Bruce Bandi, Aaron Hawkins and Heidi Kemp.