Robert Arneson. Ceramics at Davis
When he started on the faculty at the University of California, Davis, in 1962, Robert Arneson was given Temporary Building Number Nine—known on campus as TB9—to start a ceramics program at the school. His proposition was to treat ceramics, which had otherwise been considered craft, like fine art. He recruited artists for the program, and TB9, the unassuming corrugated metal building on the isolated campus, soon became legendary. As his student Richard Shaw recalled, “the place was radiating energy. . . . What was going on in TB9 was like a rushing locomotive.”1 Arneson made his own work in TB9 alongside his students, creating an active studio atmosphere rather than a conventional classroom. “I don’t want too much dogma. But I do . . . want to see some action,” the artist said of his teaching style.2 It was an experimental and permissive environment that combined locker-room humor full of sexual and scatological references with serious treatment of material and exploration of human psychology.