FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2, 2007
Contact: K.E. Schwab
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SRU art professor 'adopts' Afghan art school;
promotes water project
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University art Professor Richard Wukich's 15-day summer trip to Afghanistan to promote a potable water filtration system and offer marketing advice to local potters also convinced him to adopt the Kabul Fine Arts and Music High School art program in the capital city.
"Here is a school with very talented art students, but nearly no art supplies," Wukich said. "I am rounding up materials to send, and I hope to bring some of the students to Slippery Rock University to participate in a ceramic conference next year."
Wukich's May 15-20 trip allowed him to visit a number of Afghan cities and meet with 1992 SRU alumnus Mohammad Nasib, recent recipient of the University's first Distinguished International Alumni Award. Nasib is managing director of the Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan, a non-profit organization focused on civic education, peace building and democracy. WADAN also operates drug rehabilitation centers in Paktia, Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
"Mohammad [Nasib] provided a car, driver and translator and off we went. At the school, we were treated like royalty. The openness and friendliness of the people impressed me the most. They asked us to join in their program saluting teachers and education, complete with a performance by their band and the tossing of rose petals. They showed us their pottery, and their principal explained they had little in the way of resources − no pottery wheels, no kiln for firing pottery, no chemicals to makes glazes and little clay. They made items from their meager supply of clay and let them air dry. I decided I could supply some of the needed materials," Wukich said.
The SRU professor, who specializes in ceramics, hopes to ship the first round of art supplies later this summer and is working to provide a firing kiln and possibly computers.
His first-ever Afghan travels also took him to Istalif, an area once rich in culture and art, but destroyed by the Taliban during years of warfare. "The area is renowned for its turquoise-imbued pottery. I met potters there and watched as they threw clay using pottery skills passed down for more than 400 years," Wukich said. In addition to his observations, he offered suggestions for improving production, including small wire tripods used in the firing process to allow more objects to be loaded into the kiln, the increasing efficiency. "They were very receptive to the idea. It will also help reduce imperfections in their finished product," he said.
"They use copper, which is plentiful in their area, as an agent to produce vibrant colors," he said. The local potters are being aided by the Turquoise Mountain Foundation which is investing in regeneration of the historic commercial center of Kabul, including a new bazaar and galleries for traditional craft businesses. The project includes the first Centre for Traditional Afghan Arts and Architecture.
"Master craftsmen from the area are participating in making some of the ceramics that will be offered at the center," Wukich said. "Our plan is to have the potters of Istalif produce the water filters as an income supplement," he said. Previous trips on his worldwide filter campaign have taken him to Nyala, the Darfur region of the Sudan and Iraq.
As part of the trip, Wukich also worked with local potters and U.S. military officials in the region to promote use of large ceramic water pots or jugs that include a filter impregnated with colloidal silver as an anti-microbial agent. The filters remove harmful impurities making the water potable - thus bringing inexpensive drinking water to areas in desperate need.
Wukich said such systems are already used in Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, Ghana, the Dominican Republic and Cambodia and that work is under way for filter production facilities in Sri Lanka and Iraq.
Wukich, a 39-year faculty veteran at SRU, is active in Potters for Peace, a U.S.-based, nonprofit organization of networked potters, educators, technicians, supporters and volunteers promoting the filtration system, and Pure Water for All, a project organized by the Forest Hills Rotary Club.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Professor Wukich has an abundance of photographs taken on his Afghan trip. Two are available at www.SRU.edu, then click on this story.
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