Honoring a ‘revolutionary’ art educator

Honoring a ‘revolutionary’ art educator

A thank you for inspiring innovation and creativity

Joe Soldate laughing.

Beloved Art Emeritus Professor Joe Soldate inspired many artists duirng his 36-year teaching career. Touring his garden you can find several clay and ceramic pieces hidden amongst the plants.

Studying ceramics under Art Emeritus Professor Joe Soldate
was like learning rhythm and blues from a 1960s rock star. He ranks as one of
the art world’s superstars, his former students say.

Fearless, innovative and well-grounded in the basic
elements of materials, structure and shape, Soldate molded ceramic artwork that
bucked the trend and inspired a groundswell of students to carry forward in
their own creative endeavors.

“He was not just a teacher, he was true mentor,” said
Soldate’s former student and the retired chair of the art department at Cypress
College, Charlene Felos ’67. “The thing that really stuck with me over the years
is he encouraged experimentation, for us to take chances—and there was never any
punishment for doing that.”

Soldate’s first job was as a professor was at
Cal State
., where he stayed for 36 years, retiring in 2002. During that time, he
helped build an arts program said by many to be one of the best in the region.

“I got as many people as I could involved in what we were
doing here,” Soldate explained. “I had a really good relationship with my
students.…I learned early on that if I was going to be in the classroom, I was
going to be there for the kids—not for me. And I think that is how people still
see me.”

Recently, two of Soldate’s alumni—Felos and classmate, John
Kovac ‘67 ’68 MA—made independent donations to the University, creating two
endowed scholarships to honor their professor and help support art students.

“It was an honor to have been Professor Soldate’s early
master’s degree student, he was without a doubt the finest art professor in the
state university system and all of his ex-students wish him the best,” said
Kovac, chair of the art department at El Monte High School.

Picture of John Kovac'67 with Soldate 60 clay boxes.

John Kovac ’67, a student of Joe Soldate's in the 60s, poses with boxes of Soldate 60 clay. The special classroom-formula clay, which Soldate developed to be more durable, is used in Kovac's and other art teachers' classrooms around the country today.

Felos added that she wanted Soldate’s name to be

“remembered for what he contributed.”

Soldate taught them both how to become effective art
educators and artists, while also providing a direct connection to the state’s
historic ceramic arts movement, they said.  As a master’s student at Claremont
Graduate University, Soldate studied under Paul Soldner, who along with
Peter Voulkos, is credited with creating and defining the California school of
ceramics. (Soldate earned his bachelor’s degree from Cal State Long Beach and a
Master of Fine Arts from Claremont.)

“I was part of what was happening in the 60s,” Soldate
said, and he brought the energy, momentum and creativity of the movement with
him to Cal State L.A.

Among the things his former students recall was a
willingness to do whatever he needed to get the job done. He built kilns to fire his and students’ work, and developed the clay formula Soldate 60, still widely used today, was also
created when he needed something more durable for teaching. As classroom clay,
Soldate 60 is a special mixture durable enough that it doesn’t break so easily
when you move it, he said.

“I was somewhat of a revolutionary,” Soldate said. “And
with every revolution, comes some resistance…but I also found that the students
responded to it. If you invest in the students, you will get more out of the