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by Diane Larson 

for ButteNews.net

Mike Kujawa at Hungry Hill Art Center photo by Jim Larson

A new home for pottery work has sprouted up in Uptown Butte called Hungry Hill Center for Art, Education, and Outreach (HH), located at 14 South Dakota Street in Uptown Butte. HH was established in 2022. It is an art center offering rich educational programs and Outreach to the community.

 

The Hungry Hill website explains that through the educational programs and learning opportunities of the past Butte has developed a considerable, “community who enjoy working in clay [and] exceeds the capacity of the available facilities.” Realizing a need for a facility for these artists to be able to work in their craft, a creative industrious group of people gave birth to Hungry Hill.

 

Originating before the Neolithic or New Stone Age period, pottery is one of the oldest human inventions. Pottery gives us utensils, vessels, and wonderful works of art. It is at the cornerstone of civilization.

 

Those who work the clay with their hands receive something that most artists, regardless of the medium, understand. It is the connection with the materials, the act of moving your hands through and forming something you are able to create a final product that brings joy.

 

According to claygroundonline.com, “The art of pottery is oftentimes described as therapeutic and relaxing. While spinning clay, your mind and body are in natural synergy, wrapped around your creative ambitions and goals. This thoughtful, artistic activity can open up the mind and relieve you of outside worries.”

 

The concept for the center had been brewing for some time within the minds of, “a whole group of people, you know, a whole group of potters,” said Mike Kujawa of Hungry Hill. There are so many potters. There are the people that my dad taught, people that I taught, years of students. We always thought there should be a community place for the potters.

 

The time and energy to make such an endeavor come to fruition is considerable. It wasn’t until Kujawa retired that he was able to give it the time and respect that it deserved. The name is meant to honor a mixture of things. “There’s a hill in Ireland called Hungry Hill. There is also one down by Dewey and we liked it because they always called Butte the Hill,” said Kujawa. And at the heart is the Empty Bowls program.

 

Empty Bowls is a charity event that happens each April in Butte. All the proceeds go to the Butte Emergency Food Bank Backpack program. This program “serves over 350 chronically hungry children each week,” according to thebuttefoodbank.org. For years the pottery students have been creating these bowls for this event. This is just one of the reasons for creating Hungry Hill, it is to make sure this event continues and the children are taken care of.

 

The bowls in years passed were done in the school and at High Ore Ceramics. But unfortunately, High Ore shut down, creating a need for a new location.

 

Mike Kujawa is the Executive Director and an Instructor at the center. Kujawa retired in 2022 after 30 years in the classroom. He had followed in his father’s footsteps, Mike Kujawa Sr, who taught for 29 years. According to the Hungry Hill website, during his time in the classroom Kujawa Sr., “Lead the charge in bringing ceramics to Butte public schools during the 1970s and the 1980s.”

 

Kujawa Sr. retired in 2002, “then I came on board and continued that pottery,” said Kujawa. There, of course, is a new teacher at the school teaching pottery, taking up where Kujawa left off. “We didn’t want to flood him with Empty Bowls his first year,” said Kujawa. Making all the bowls for this one event is a big undertaking.

 

In this community the potter population is considerable. People have taken classes either from Mike or from his father, Mike Sr. Combining the school classes as well as classes taught in the adult ed program that is 59 years of creativity and experience they have given to this community. This goes a long way to explaining the very large group of people in Butte that are potters.

 

The board of directors to Hungry Hill consists of Phil Telling, president. Heather Woods, vice president/instructor; Diana Kujawa, secretary/safeguarding officer; Sara Biegel, treasurer/instructor; William Daily, board member; AM (Mike) Kujawa, board member/instructor; Todd Hoar, board member; and Shannon Moyle, board member.

 

 “Outreach is also central to our mission, as is art-based support for partner non-profits;’ fundraising efforts,” according to hungryhill.org. This endeavor is so new that much is still in the planning stages and not much can be revealed quite yet. However, “We feel that our services can help other organizations and that’s where we want to go. There is such a good giving community and we want to help and do outreach with our art,” says Kujawa.

 

One outreach item, still in the planning stages deals with veterans, “My Dad is a veteran, he wants to have a veteran’s group up here where they’re coming in and learning how to throw pots. And so, we’re working with a few people from the veterans’ organizations right now trying to set that up,” Kujawa explained.

 

There is an art therapist who would like to do some classes there as well. “Art is a very calming, centering activity, especially pottery,” says Kujawa.

 

Classes have begun at HH. There is a calendar on the website, hungryhill.org. If you click on the events tab it will take you to a calendar. The classes tab will give you information about what classes are offered and the cost.

 

Recently at a Kiwanis meeting, symphony executive director Lowell Stuck mentioned that Butte is going through a cultural renaissance.

 

Hungry Hill definitely contributes to this renaissance with everything they are about. Art in all forms helps uphold a community and its peoples. “Art speaks its own language-soul to soul, heart to heart,” said Croatian artist Ana Tzarev.

 

For Mike Kujawa art is important, he explained that it helps raise people, “creating art gives you an outlet, as well as purchasing art, going to look at art in galleries or museums.”