Kelli Rae Adams


Halcyon Arts Lab Fellow Kelli Rae Adams utilizes clay in various states of permanency—often alongside additional materials—to create installation-based works that examine prevailing economic systems and probe our existing relationships to labor, currency and value. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally at venues such as the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University(Providence, RI), the Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY) and the Museum of International Ceramic Art (Denmark), and she has been Artist-in-Residence at Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Center in Denmark and Vista Alegre in Portugal. Her study of ceramics began in Japan, where she apprenticed over a period of five years with Tetsuro Hatabe, a master potter in the Karatsu tradition. Kelli holds an MFA in Ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in Visual Arts and Spanish from Duke University, and she has served as faculty at RISD.

Artist Events

Forever in Your Debt

This project by artist Kelli Rae Adams, entitled Forever in Your Debt, is a material data visualization of the student debt crisis in the United States, which presently affects more than 44 million Americans. Using the pottery wheel, Adams has crafted a quantity of ceramic bowls sufficient to hold the average student debt burden for a current college graduate — approximately $37,000 — in the form of coins. Through the mechanism of the resulting installation, she invites visitors to contribute their accumulated household change in exchange for one of the vessels, which they will receive once the project has been fully realized. Referencing not only the widespread custom of household change bowls but also that of the begging bowl, this work renders visible our largely abstract understanding of student debt. More broadly, the endeavor probes prevailing systems of quantifying value with respect to both the costs and benefits of higher education, positing questions regarding the effectiveness, sustainability and humanity of these systems.

If you have a quantity of accumulated change you are willing to contribute to the installation, please bring it with you to the exhibition site. All contributions are of change are welcome and greatly appreciated. Contributions of mixed change sufficient to fill a bowl will be reciprocated by the artist; those who contribute this minimum amount will receive one of the bowls from the installation once the project is complete, after an estimated time period of one to two years. 

Forever in your debt will be on view at Corcoran School of the Arts & Design at GW

June 13 6-8pm

June 15 & 16 1-6pm

June 18-21 10am-6pm

June 22 & 23 1-6pm

Artist Talk 
June 16th, 1:00pm - 1:45pm 
Join the Artist at Smithsonian’s Arts + Industries Building to talk about her work and learn more about her practice. In this artist talk, Adams will trace the trajectory of her installation-based practice over the past decade, ranging from graduate work drawing upon her background as a potter's apprentice in Japan and her longtime study of yoga and meditation to her present-day engagement with themes of labor, value and economy.