A Sojourner's Path

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Free-wheeling ’60s

Arthur Schade, a Bay Area artist whose sculptures have been displayed at the Manetti Shrem Museum (“1990 Twin Falls” sits at the museum’s main entrance) was in the first group of people to earn an MFA in 1969. “It was a fun and free-wheeling place,” he remembered, where he and others sometimes stayed all day and night working on projects. “It was a dirty, messy place. It was great.”

The faculty were not much older than the students, and they all had a special camaraderie, added Sandy Shannonhouse, the widow of Arneson who is now married to Schade.

Schade remembers working one summer day in 118-degree heat helping the late professor Tio Giambruni at the foundry. “It was so hot. I lost seven pounds in one day,” he said.

Shannonhouse, a sculptor who studied art at UC Davis as an undergraduate and has two of her works on display in the museum’s courtyard, said there has been a long-held joke about the heat and lack of air circulation in the metal-encased building, considered by some a “hothouse of creativity.” The kiln room still emits a lot of heat, but the remaining rooms are comfortable even on a warm Davis day.

“I think that someone finally figured out that the chickens on campus had air conditioning, but not the art building,” she quipped.

A place from the past, for the present

Today, not all students know the history of the place. But they can feel it.

When one walks into TB 9, a message on a chalkboard reads: “Welcome to TB 9. Happy Creating.”

chalkboard sign reading Welcome to TB9 Happy Creating
A chalkboard welcomes students to TB 9 (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

“We have the freedom to create here,” said Julia Pierce, 20, in her third year as a student. A design major and studio art minor, Pierce recently took her third class at TB 9 in the spring quarter, creating a 5-foot tall clay sculpture for a class assignment. The sculpture area is down the way from a long hallway at the building’s entrance containing floor-to-ceiling, tightly packed, framed photos of hundreds of students and faculty from previous years. The gallery starts to the left of the entrance, with a single photo of Arneson and one of his many, now-famous sculptures of his own head.  

Professor Annabeth Rosen, a nationally known and accomplished ceramic sculptor, carries on much of the tradition there, taking photos of student artists, alumni and visitors to display on the walls in a makeshift gallery of memories. She teaches and creates much of her work in a studio at TB 9, just as Arneson did, immersing herself in the work with the students some days, paint and clay spotted about on her skin, hair and clothes.

Officially, she has held the Department of Art and Art History’s Robert Arneson Endowed Chair since 1997. Unofficially, if TB 9 were a city, she would be the mayor, and she mentors its citizens. She has put together a TB 9 “manual” with hundreds of pages of recipes and procedures for making color and blending clay to get the desired results. The clay the students use is in the inexpensive, raw form coming from Lincoln, California. Students must mix, pound and form the clay they need for creating.

“This way, all students, regardless of income or means, have access to the material,” explained Rosen. “They can work to the limits of their imaginations, and then beyond that.”

This is how it’s always been at TB 9.