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'A La Carte': The menu includes the plates

March 18, 2009

When a ceramic artist creates functional pottery, such as plates, bowls and cups, there’s one easy – and enjoyable – way for people to truly interact with the art: eat your dinner from it, and drink your coffee out of a handmade cup.

Such will be the case when eleven local and out of town artists join with two Valley restaurants for “A La Carte,” April 6-12.

The artists each will create 25 bowls, plates or cups. Diners who visit Lux Coffee Bar, 440 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, and House of Tricks, 114 E. 7th St., Tempe, may order specialty appetizers, entrees and beverages served on the artist created tableware, with the option to buy one piece or the whole set – until every piece is sold.

“A La Carte,” which coincides with the 43rd National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference April 6-11 at the Phoenix Convention Center, is being planned by ASU Ceramic graduate students Jana Evans and Christian Tonsgard and Joe Baker and Melissa McGurgan of the Herberger College.

The project grew out of discussions that Tonsgard had with Melissa McGurgan, program coordinator of art and dance at the Herberger College Community School.

“She was helping me plan my thesis show,” said Tonsgard. “I’ve always had the idea of doing a collaboration with my friends and restaurants. We talked to Joe Baker, Herberger’s director of community engagement, and it has blossomed.”

Jana Evans joined the project and she and Tonsgard decided to invite artists of varying experience, from students to nationally known potters, to participate so there would be dinnerware in a range of prices.

Each artist keeps the funds from the sale of the items, which will range from approximately $20 to $100.

Tonsgard, who makes modern, Scandinavian-inspired tableware with a “nesting” quality, said he is thrilled that the chefs of both restaurants were so excited about the project.

Evans, whose work is “graphically whimsical” and playful, said she is excited about “the opportunity to make such a large quantity dinnerware and get to see people’s reactions about it.”

McGurgan added that the project is an “intervention” of sorts – showing people that art can be an everyday part of life. “You’re using it."