Exploring his interest in the role of pots as both an historic and contemporary vehicle to facilitate and share culture, Mike Helke (Stillwater, MN) creates functional forms to encourage the user to think, feel, question, and wonder how things could be, rather than how they should be. Connecting a vessel with personal experience and a broad array of subject matter, his compositions are created to activate a call and response relationship between the maker, the object, and its user.
Helke received his BFA in ceramics with a minor in American studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 2005 and his MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2011. Throughout his career, he has remained active as an educator through faculty positions at various institutions including but not limited to Northern Clay Center, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), Carleton College (Northfield, MN), Anderson Ranch Art Center (Snowmass Village, CO), and University of Wisconsin–River Falls where he currently holds the title of assistant professor. Additionally, Helke has led myriad workshops, demonstrations, and lectures at locations across the United States including Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA), Utah State University (Logan), Pottery Northwest (Seattle, WA), Harvard University (Boston, MA), Red Lodge Clay Center (Red Lodge, MT), and Morean Center for Clay (St. Petersburg, FL).
In addition to inclusion in both local and national publications, Helke has received recognition for his work through awards such as the Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation Award (2006), the Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant (2008), and a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant (2017). Actively represented by various galleries including Harvey Preston Gallery (Aspen, CO), Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago, IL), and Lucy Lacoste Gallery (Concord, MA), Helke’s work has also been exhibited at venues including AKAR (Iowa City, IA), Museum of Contemporary Craft (Portland, OR), TRAX Gallery (Berkley, CA), Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge), Weisman Art Museum (Minneapolis, MN), and Huntington Museum of Art (Huntington, WV).