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Sedgwick artist leaves a legacy in studio donation to Bethel College

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College is the beneficiary of a Sedgwick potter’s love of her art and her wish for that love to live on in others after she was gone.

Donna Philbrick lost a struggle with cancer last fall. Her husband, Jerry Philbrick, knew she wanted her studio equipment to continue helping others create.

“We thought about breaking it up and selling the pieces separately, but that just didn’t seem like the right thing,” he says.

Donna had a master of fine arts degree in ceramics and was drawn to creating large pieces. In 2004, after many years of being out of the arts, she wanted to build a backyard studio with a gas-fired salt kiln and needed expert help to do it.

The Philbricks had heard about David Long, associate professor of art at Bethel and a ceramic artist, because of his frequent participation in Wichita and regional shows. They contacted Long, who agreed to help them design and build the kiln.

“Donna liked him,” Jerry Philbrick says. “I knew she wanted me to donate her studio equipment to an art department,” to keep it intact. He first contacted another, larger institution but got little response. So he called Long.

“Jerry decided the best way to honor his wife’s memory and love of the arts was to find an appropriate institution willing to accept and use all of her studio equipment,” Long says. “In coming to this decision, Jerry contacted me and wanted to know my interest in accepting such a donation.

“What a generous gift. Without his knowledge, I had been wondering how to rebuild one of our kilns and where the funds might come from to buy new fire brick.”

Some of the more notable items donated include 2,000 fire bricks, two Ward burners to fire the kiln, a large electric Skutt kiln, a Laguna kickwheel, a Bailey slab roller, 14 kiln shelves and numerous studio tools, plus clays and glazes.

Long and Bethel Director of Development Fred Goering asked local ceramic artist Conrad Snider to assess the gift, which has been valued at $20,686.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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