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Rudy Autio, Cavalcade
1997, stoneware and underglaze,
MMAC Permanent Collection
Museum Purchase, Percent for Art
Rudy Autio was born in Butte, Montana in 1926, and lived in his native state for most of his career. From 1957-1985, he headed the ceramics division of the School of Art at the University of Montana. He and his artist wife Lela raised a family in Missoula, Montana.
Prior to his appointment at UM, Autio, along with modernist Peter Voulkos, was a founding resident artist at the Archie Bray Ceramics Foundation in Helena, Montana. At the Bray, the two artists earned a reputation for moving American ceramics from the status of craft to mainstream contemporary art. Autio maintained that tradition at UM.
While Autio's best known works are figurative ceramic vessels, he also worked in a variety of materials and other media. In addition to commissions in ceramic relief and tile murals, he created in bronze, concrete, glass, and fabricated metal sculpture. He also designed colorful Rya tapestries, many of which were commissioned for public buildings in the American Northwest and Finland. At the end of his life, he was creating two-dimensional digital drawings. His work is exhibited extensively, both nationally and internationally.
Autio received numerous honors and awards, including a Tiffany Award in Crafts in 1963, the American Ceramic Society Art Award in 1978, and a National Endowment grant in 1980. In 1981, he was the first recipient of the Governor's Award and named “Outstanding Visual Artist” in the state of Montana. In November 1999, he was awarded the American Craftsman's Gold Medal Award in ceremonies at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C. Autio died in 2007.