Frances Maude Senska was Peter Voulkos’ Teacher

Frances Maude Senska (March 9, 1914 – December 25, 2009), known as the “grandmother of ceramics in Montana,” was an art professor and ceramic artist who taught at Montana State University from 1946 to 1973.

Born in Batanga, Cameroon, to Presbyterian missionary parents, Senska came to America in 1929 and earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa. After teaching at Grinnell College (1939-42) and serving in the United States Navy during World War II, she began teaching ceramics at Montana State University, where she built a ceramics program from scratch and trained many internationally known ceramic artists (including Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio).

Senska died on December 25, 2009, and was honored with several awards throughout her life, including an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Montana State University and election as a Fellow of the American Craft Council. She also helped found several important arts organizations, including the Montana Institute of the Arts and the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana.

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