The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

UI alum Tammie Rubin named 2024 United States Artists Fellow

From a student at the University to a nationally recognized ceramics artist, Tammie Rubin’s graduation in 1999 was just the beginning of an engaging career.

Born and raised in Chicago, Rubin currently resides in Austin, Texas, where she works at St. Edward’s University as an associate professor of ceramics and sculpture.

Having been nominated for the USA Artists Fellowship in the past, Rubin was finally awarded the honor and named a 2024 USA Fellow.

The USA Fellowships are “annual $50,000 unrestricted awards recognizing the most compelling artists working and living in the United States,” according to the United States Artists website.

“I think what’s interesting about this award is that it is such a wide variety of disciplines that it covers,” Rubin said. “So it’s not just the visual arts.”

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Nominations are submitted anonymously and reviewed by panelists specific to each discipline. The 50 selected fellows are then passed on to the board of trustees for approval.

Rubin is already an established ceramic sculptor and a multimedia installation artist. 

“My work is really about taking objects that already exist, that are industrial and domestic, and I reconfigure them to have conversations about historical contexts,” she said.

She focuses specifically on creating relics of Black American history and integrating topics of migration and labor while creating ritual totems to display the history.

“It fluctuates between these more intimate grouping sculptures and these larger headdresses,” Rubin said. “I also make Masonite prayer fans that have a conversation about memorializing women’s labor.”

For the 2024 year, Rubin is in the cohort of craft artists. These artists work specifically with textiles, metals, paper and other materials.

“What tends to happen is that artists have a warehouse for studio space, and that space gets bought up and turned into condos,” Rubin said. “I’m looking forward to the reprieve of knowing I have studio space.”

Rubin grew up in parochial schools that often lacked art classes for her to take. Instead, she took advantage of the art scene in Chicago by regularly attending the Art Institute of Chicago and other museums.

She denoted a great amount of her inspiration to the church, one of the places she grew up in. She said the church is a place where there are so many handcrafted objects with a denoted symbolic meaning. Rubin also attributed some of her artistic nature to her family. Rubin’s great-aunt would draw birthday cards by hand and crochet doll doilies, and she had other family members with a business making jewelry, handbags and clothing.

In her time at the University, she studied closely under Ron Kovatch, professor in FAA, who would invite students into his ceramics studio.

“He was so generous, and that was the first time I really saw a working artist,” Rubin said. “Going into his space and seeing him work put that into context that I could have this creative life.”

Rubin assures being an artist is a profession, and that the “starving artist” trope is not as inevitable as the image popular culture paints.

In her work right now, she is focusing on her family’s history and stories of women’s domestic and industrial labor.

“We have come back to a time where people want to erase the history of Black Americans,” she said. “Black history is American history.”

Rubin said one of her biggest artistic inspirations was, and still is, Syd Carpenter. Carpenter is a retired ceramics artist who uses clay to tell stories of African American land, legacy and courage, per a Craft in America interview.

“She was the first Black female professor I ever heard of,” Rubin said. “Seeing her not only as an artist but in academia — she is still an inspiration to me to keep striving forward.”

Rubin currently has an exhibition up at the C24 gallery in New York City titled “Points of Origin.” Among many other upcoming projects, she will also be a visiting artist at Ox-Bow School of Art in Michigan this summer.

“Art for me is life,” Rubin said. “It’s not only that I produce art, it’s that I’m all in. It is the activity that I fully immerse with.”

 

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Sam Gregerman, Senior Feature Reporter
Hi! My name is Sam, and I’m a sophomore majoring in English with a minor in creative writing. I was hired as a features writer in Fall 2023 after transferring to Illinois, and I began writing for buzz at the beginning of Spring 2024. I’m very excited to step into the role of Senior Feature Reporter and continue my contributions to The Daily Illini! If I’m not in the office, I’m probably next door at the Pi Phi house where I live, reading or watching reality TV. If you have any Champaign-Urbana events or topics you’d like covered, please send me an email using the button below! It is my goal to amplify community voices to the best of my ability.
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