Wayne Potratz ’64

2014 Distinguished Citizen

View all Distinguished Citizen Award recipients

Practicing art could be perceived as solitary work, but for Wayne Potratz, it’s the opposite: his art has connected him to a global community of teachers, students, and scholars. Thanks to many international artist’s residencies, Potratz has developed a broad, unique, and global perspective on his craft: “A specialist in ancient metal casting techniques from around the world, he has advanced the cause of internationalism through the making, teaching, and international exhibit of sculpture,” writes one of his nominators, Macalester art professor Ruthann Godollei.

A serious artist even as an undergraduate, Potratz majored in art education. Encouraged by Mac mentors and art professors Tony Caponi and Jerry Rudquist, he earned a master’s degree in sculpture from the University of California–Berkeley. In nearly five decades that followed, Potratz balanced teaching and practicing art at equally exceptional levels. He taught more than 2,200 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 150 University of Minnesota courses over a 45-year teaching career. In 2008, the university named Potratz a College of Liberal Arts Scholar, the first artist to ever receive the honor.

Using the Lakota sign for “turtle” as his artistic signature since graduate school and drawing inspiration from many trips to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, Potratz works primarily with cast bronze, iron, and aluminum. He is the founder of the International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art. He has received international recognition through fellowships and awards, including the International Sculpture Center’s 2013 Outstanding Educator Award, and has been part of 30 one- or two-person exhibitions and 340 group exhibitions. Writes another nominator on his impact: “Wayne has contributed to the education not only of generations of students at the University of Minnesota but also of a worldwide community of scholars, with whom he speaks in the international language of art.”