Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emerita
- M.A. (Ceramics), Ohio State University, 1964
- B.A. (Fine Arts and Art Education), DePauw University — Greencastle, Indiana, 1962
Georgette Zirbes is a Professor at the School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan where she has taught since 1970. Prior to that she taught at Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, and New York City Public Schools.
Zirbes received a B.A. degree in 1962 from DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana where she majored in fine arts and art education. She completed her M.A. degree in 1964 at The Ohio State University in art (ceramics) with considerable time spent studying art history and Asian studies. She attended San Jose State University, San Jose, California during the summer of 1963, participating in a special ceramics workshop with Shoji Hamada.
After graduate school, Zirbes received a Fulbright Junior Research Grant for study in Japan. She attended the Kyoto City College of Fine Arts, while pursuing residencies at the Six Old Kilns sites of Bizen with Kei Fujiwara, Shino with Kenji Kato, and Shigaraki with Rakusai Takahashi. She remained in Japan for three years continuing to study the traditional and contemporary visual arts while maintaining a private studio outside Kyoto. She returned to the U.S. in 1967 to New York City, where she lived at Greenwich House Pottery, taught in the New York Public Schools, and maintained a studio on the lower east side.
Zirbes started the studio art program in 1970 at the Residential College, University of Michigan. She moved from there to the School of Art and Design, where she has taught for thirty five years. She has received numerous support from the University of Michigan, Office of Vice President for Research grants, Rackham research grants, Rackham International Travel Funds, and a Career Development Award from the President’s Agenda for Women. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for work in mixed media. She was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for Creative and Performing Arts from DePauw University, the first time given in this category. More recently, she was awarded the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship, from the University of Michigan, for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.
In 1985, Zirbes began traveling to Eastern Europe to research the traditional and contemporary visual arts. In 1987 she received a Fulbright Senior Research Grant for research in Czechoslovakia where she was a visiting faculty at the Higher School of Fine and Applied Arts in Prague. She researched contemporary ceramic artists by visits to studios, schools, museums, and galleries. At the same time she was traveling to Domaslice, Modra, and Pozdisovce to document the traditional ceramic sites. Contacts made during this time led to opportunities for residencies in international symposia.
Zirbes recent research and creative work is fundamentally influenced by connections and experiences in the international community of artists who work with clay. Since 1990, she has participated in numerous international workshops/symposia/residencies, where artists are invited to live and work together for a period of approximately one month. Exchange of ideas, work processes, cultural experiences are ongoing during this intense period that culminates in a major exhibition of both individual and collaborative work. These experiences continue to affect her work images and intentions as well as attitudes about her working process in ways that are powerful and sometimes magical.