By Jessica Klarp
Situated in a corner of her barn, Libba Tracy is creating in a time of crisis. Like many creatives who have found solace in their art, the artist’s process is a comfort, a slice of normalcy amid uncertainty and concern. Tracy is a respected ceramicist who produces and sells in the vibrancy of the River Arts District, creating distinctive large animal sculptures, usually in community with other artists and surrounded by tourists. Sequestered now in the solitude of her makeshift barn studio, she started small, making intricately designed mugs, and turned inward.
“The reality of the pandemic left me agitated to find purpose and meaning somehow through the clay,” says Tracy. “I’ve been working in clay for 10 years now mostly creating sculpture, but found that doing the status quo was a lifeless endeavor when so many are on the skinny branches of well-being. Alone on this farm, what can I do to contribute, and what is needed?” So she kept making mugs until she came up with a plan.
Tracy has now created 100 unique, beautifully designed, lusciously glazed, distinctive mugs and cups. She’s calling her enterprise Mugs on a Mission, an endeavor designed to generate funds to help the many local community members who are food-insecure. She chose Bounty & Soul, a well-established community-based nonprofit providing access to fresh produce and wellness education, as the beneficiary of her efforts.
“The need is great,” says Ali Casparian, executive director of Bounty & Soul. “There was a need before, but the closures have had a significant economic impact on our local economy which relies so heavily on tourism. We know we will be in this for a while. The generosity of the community, the idea of community helping community, just reinforces our values of inclusivity, positivity and hope.”
Without access to her regular studio Tracy turned to the Black Mountain Center for the Arts (BMCA), an organization she and her family have supported over its 20 years of existence. During the shut-down, BMCA Clay Studio manager Charles Freeland used his time to fire this large volume of work. The staff of the Arts Center also agreed to serve as an outlet to display and help market the work. In return, a small percentage of the profits will benefit the BMCA, which has also suffered during the COVID closures.
“I’m hoping to turn clay into meals,” Tracy says. “Fifty dollars a mug will go a long way in supporting those in our community. Mugs on a Mission is an avenue for people to contribute. It’s something that feels good on multiple levels. You get to help feed our community and walk away with a cup of comfort.”
To learn more about Bounty & Soul, go to BountyandSoul.org. To purchase a mug, visit the Black Mountain Center for the Arts located at 225 West State Street in Black Mountain, visit BlackMountainArts.org/shop or call 828.669.0930.