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The Universe of Clay

During the month of October, an exhibit at Mighty Mud Gallery in Knoxville will explore geological processes involved in the formation of clay minerals on Earth and Mars.

The Universe of Clay features ceramic rovers and paintings with iron oxides and acrylic gels by visual artist Shelagh Leutwiler, a 2007 UT studio arts graduate. In collaboration with Anna Szynkiewicz, associate professor in the UT Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, they hope to evaluate whether clay pottery would be possible on Mars.

“Our goal with this public outreach is to educate viewers about key scientific processes of clay formation on Earth and Mars,” Szynkiewicz says. “We hope to increase scientific literacy by presenting the process of discovery through scientific investigations.”

The Universe of Clay brings the planetary geoscience out of the classroom and into the public sphere of an art gallery with the intention of educating about scientific discovery, inspiring, and entertaining members of the local community.

“Our hope is that the exhibit will increase public understanding of the geological process in formation of clays that are widely used by art communities in the Knoxville area and inspire the public about STEM education,” Szynkiewicz says.

The exhibit will be on display during October in the Mighty Mud Gallery (126 Jennings Ave.) Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit

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