On Nov. 7, local artist and retired art teacher Cindy Cooper presented her coral reef-inspired pottery in the Hershberger Art Gallery in the Music Center.

Cooper has been a professional artist for many years and has a wide range of experience, from winning awards to being founder of the Goshen Clay Artists Guild. 

After serving as an educator at Goshen High School, she shifted her attention to creating pottery. 

The art exhibition, entitled One Piece at a Time, stems from Cooper’s passion and dedication for ocean preservation.

“It is painful to see what man has ignorantly done to harm the reef system,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, the coral reefs are in decline worldwide. This is due to climate change, which leads to coral bleaching, overfishing, blast fishing … pollution.”

After the opening, Cooper gave a presentation, in which she took audience members on a journey through personal anecdotes.

“Lots of people have come up to me and said … ‘Did you go to Goshen College?’ And I started thinking about that. And the truth of the matter is, yes, I did. I went to kindergarten here,” she said, eliciting a laugh from the audience. 

She noted that she was even in the same kindergarten class as Merill Krabill, the current ceramics professor at Goshen College. 

She continued to reflect on the importance of forming connections as a child because they matter and tend to transmit into adulthood. 

Cooper also talked about the elements of her creative process. She described the cathartic experience of looking at coral reefs through scuba diving or snorkeling. 

“Above the water … it’s pretty, but it’s not like what you see [underwater] … from now on, I thought this had to be what I wanted to make work about,” said Cooper. “Many artists are inspired by nature, and mine happens to be under the water, particularly in the coral reefs.”

Many of her pieces are large vessels with delicate underwater scenes carved onto them. Most of her larger works were too tall to fit in the kiln, so she fired them in sections and bonded them together with glaze.

Apart from the ocean-inspired subject matter, another unifying aspect of her work is the limited  color palette she works with. All of her larger vessels are glazed in a signature turquoise and a sand-like color. She also includes other pops of color, and many of her pieces include carved out negative spaces. 

One Piece at a Time will be on display in the Music Center until Dec. 16. The Hershberger Art Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.