Patron to the arts and inspiration to all

Julia Eilert

From social work, education, ceramics and everything in between, Michael Bradley is leading a busy life.

“I really like interacting on a direct, one-on-one basis as a peer to younger people. These are kids that are going to have great careers if they pursue ceramics, or they’re gonna have a great life doing ceramics part time,” said Bradley, “Being another one of the ‘studio rats’ is just what I want to do.”

Born and raised in Wichita, Bradley received a degree at KU and completed graduate work on elementary education. Following that, he went and taught classes for several years in Australia. After Australia, Bradley earned a ceramics degree and went into social work for 28 years.

“Right now, some of it is just learning stuff that I didn’t learn as an undergraduate. Part way through my undergraduate, I had an injury and couldn’t lift more than five pounds, I couldn’t wedge, I couldn’t throw, I couldn’t do anything that a typical ceramic artist does,” said Bradley.

His injury didn’t slow him down, as he went on with a different, but no less exciting path in the art world, with several pieces making their way into exhibits and museums.

“I’m getting back into pots. Most of what I was doing before was sculptural, so I’m relearning the basic ceramics stuff that everybody oughta know,” said Bradley. “I’m also doing some sculptural things, sort of talking about things I’m concerned about, things that I’m embarrassed to be leaving to the next generation to be solved, like the energy issues, and global warming and race relations. A whole variety of things that I think my generation has really f—– up.”

While Bradley started off with an unlikely beginning, he is currently a patron of the arts here at Washburn. As part of the over-60 program, Bradley has been taking classes for the last five semesters, and is currently enrolled in a ceramics class.

“This was a way, after retiring, to get back into clay, which I really enjoy, and it’s a great program that Washburn has,” said Bradley. “It allows us to use the facilities and take a class, continue learning, participate with the young people just starting out in their careers- which keeps us all young, I think.”

His camaraderie with the traditional students is also something Bradley is admired for.

“He is so reachable, and it is so comfortable talking to him- if you need to space or anything you can talk to him,” said Kritika Shelly, senior art major. “As a mentor, he will give us good advice, and he does things for people without any benefit for himself, which I think is the greatest quality about him.”

Along with being a student, Bradley is involved with WPC and helps students with community outreach.

“He’s one of the leaders in the community as far as art is concerned, and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t absolutely love him,” said Harvey Flowers, senior art major. “He has a really good connection with people in general, and he’s a phenomenal artist.”

Bradley is involved with printmaking, and rents a studio in NOTO in Topeka with his partner. At Washburn, Bradley has helped install murals, find business opportunities and helped students in a variety of ways.

“He’s always looking out for helping us find a good deal on equipment, and he’s been very willing to give tons of his time,” said Monette Mark, ceramic professor. “He’s helped us create associations with different places here in town where we’ve been able to go out in the community and spread artwork with kids.”

Within his time here, Bradley has deeply impacted the Washburn art department, and opened up many possibilities for the entire community. He is helping with and working on a few projects at the moment. Currently, he is preparing to make pieces for NOTO’s ‘Artists Speak’ exhibit that happens every two years before elections.

“There’s so many things that could go wrong, that we all must be totally crazy to try to make this medium work for us,” said Bradley. “There’s a long way to go from conceptualization to product, but the reality is that whenever people have come together historically, when people work together and interact with each other, that’s when the greatest achievements have been made.”