About Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts
Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts (The Bray) was founded at the foothills of the Montana Rockies in 1951 by entrepreneur, brickmaker, and avid arts patron Archie Bray, who intended it to be a place to “make available for all who are seriously interested in the ceramic arts, a fine place to work.” The primary mission is to provide an environment and connection with other serious artists that stimulates creative work in ceramics. Located on the site of the former Western Clay Manufacturing Company, the 26-acre historic brickyard campus has more than 17 buildings, including a 12,000-square-foot resident artist studio facility, a new education and research facility, multiple sales and exhibition galleries, renovated administrative offices, and a facility for ceramic retail and manufacturing. The property is open to artists, students, gallery visitors, and ceramic supply customers, as well as the general public for classes, gallery visits, retail activity, guided walking tours, and structured group visits. In 2021 The Bray celebrated its 70th anniversary, and its commitment to contributing to equity in the field of ceramics is stronger than ever. The organization is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion among its artists, staff, board, and all members of the community.
Through year-round and short-term residency programs, The Bray provides studio space, facilities, and a supportive community for ceramic artists with diverse backgrounds, cultures, and aesthetic approaches. The residency programs vary in length, emphasize the cross-fertilization of ideas among artists, and provide kilns and facilities geared toward experimentation and exploration. The Bray offers 10 long-term residences that last up to two years, 10 summer residencies, and 10 to 15 short-term residencies throughout the year. Artists come to The Bray to work intensively on creating new bodies of work and/or to examine, explore, and challenge what is possible in their individual studio practice. All resident artists receive free studio space, access to a vast range of kilns and equipment, exhibition opportunities and promotion, discounts on materials and firings, and access to a clay manufacturing facility. The organization also has substantial international impact, bringing together artists from all around the world, providing them with the facilities and freedom to explore their creative voices. Since its inception, more than 600 ceramic artists have come to The Bray to work.
The Bray has a 20-member board of directors led by Chair Sue Tirrell, ceramic artist and former Bray resident. The Bray employs 22 staff members who are aided by a dynamic core of community volunteers. In a typical year (pre-pandemic), The Bray’s cash budget is about $1.8 million. Earned revenue is approximately $1.3 million and contributed revenue for current use is approximately $500,000. These numbers do not include depreciation on plant and equipment or unrealized gains and losses on investments. The net assets of The Bray are currently $9.5 million, including $5.3 million in plant and equipment.
With a population of approximately 32,000 residents, Helena grew out of a mining camp during the Montana gold rush. The city was established in 1864 and became the capital in 1875. At the turn of the last century, the city’s beautiful architecture rivaled most cities in the West due to the money that poured in from the 1864 gold strike, leading to Helena becoming known as “The Queen City of the Rockies.” The city is more widely known for its unmatched natural beauty and support of art and culture. Sitting at the eastern foot of the Continental Divide, it is a stunning region graced by mountains, including Mount Helena and Mount Ascension, which boast some of the best single-track hiking/biking trails in the northwest. Surrounded by national forests, trout-laden rivers, including the majestic Missouri River, and broad, sweeping valleys, Helena is also a world-class destination for skiing, fly-fishing, and rafting.
The city is also rich with history and offers a unique blend of the past and the present. The Montana State Capitol building is built in Greek neoclassical style and features several paintings by famed Montana cowboy artist Charlie Russell. The city is also home to a museum at the Montana Historical Society, showcasing more than 50,000 artifacts detailing the state’s rich culture and history. Reeder’s Alley began life in the 1860s as housing for miners and today it is home to specialty shops, offices, restaurants, and a restored miner’s lodging. One of the premier attractions of Helena is its unique shopping district, the Helena Walking Mall. The three-block-long strip of shops, clubs, and restaurants is along the original path of the Last Chance Gulch, the name of the actual place where gold was discovered in 1864. The local arts and culture scene is a thriving part of the city, including The Myrna Loy, Grandstreet Theatre, and Helena Symphony. The Holter Museum of Art opened in 1987 and is considered one of the finest in the state, offering more than 20 rotating exhibitions each year.
Helena has a long record of economic stability. Its capital city status makes it a major hub of activity at the county, state, and federal level. Education is a major employer, with Carroll College, Helena College (part of the University of Montana), two high schools, as well as accompanying elementary and middle schools for K–12 students. Helena’s economy is also bolstered by Fort William Henry Harrison, a National Guard base located just outside the city.