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Artist spotlight: Behind-the-scenes of Tech High School's new pottery installation

How Desi Murphy created a large ceramic art installation for St. Cloud's Tech High School.

Artist spotlight: Behind-the-scenes of Tech High School's new pottery installation
Artist Desi Murphy works on a ceramic art piece for St. Cloud’s Tech High School in her pottery studio on Oct. 25, 2023, in St. Cloud, Minn. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)

Working with clay is no easy feat. Desi Murphy understands that better than most.

The St. Cloud-based artist recently created and installed a 26-piece public pottery display for Tech High School. Titled “Stepping Up,” the art piece represents striving toward academic excellence and future success, according to her artist statement. 

Murphy, who is a Tech alum, glazed the clay with orange, white, and black as an ode to the school’s colors. It spans almost the entirety of the west-facing wall in the high school lobby.

“It’s cool to finally see it,” Murphy said. “It’s been living in my head for so long and now it’s finally happening,” she said while installing the piece. 

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The piece, which scales 24 feet in length and 12 feet in height, hangs above students, teachers and staff as they move throughout the building. It took a total of nine months to complete. Murphy said she focused heavily on the concept of Tech High School’s mission before beginning any design work. 

 "It is a huge honor to have my art on the wall of my former high school,” she said.

A woman's finger points on a map of the layout for an art installation.
Artist Desi Murphy shows a map of her design while installing a public ceramic display at St. Cloud's Tech High School on Dec. 6, 2023. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)
A woman, seen from behind, places a rectangular piece of ceramic pottery on a wall at a high school.
Artist Desi Murphy installs her public ceramic display on Dec. 6, 2023, in St. Cloud, Minn. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)
A ceramic pottery art installation is seen on a wall in a high school lobby. Its colors are orange, black and white, the school's colors.
Artist Desi Murphy's art installation in St. Cloud’s Tech High School as seen on Dec. 14, 2023, in St. Cloud, Minn. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)
An artist walks through her studio.
Artist Desi Murphy moves through her pottery studio on Oct. 25, 2023, in St. Cloud, Minn. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)
An artist poses for a portrait outside of her studio. The sign is seen in the background.
Artist Desi Murphy stands for a portrait outside of her studio on Oct. 25, 2023, in St. Cloud, Minn. Murphy created a ceramic art piece for St. Cloud’s Tech High School, her alma mater. (Erica Dischino for Project Optimist)

This public art project is grant funded through the Central Minnesota Arts Board and the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment. The piece is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central MN Arts Board, due to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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Find more from Desi Murphy: desimurphy.com, email: desimurphy@gmail.com, and via Instagram and Facebook: @desimurphypottery.

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