Douglas Kent Baldwin, the retired ceramics chair at the Maryland Institute College of Art, died of heart disease Dec. 10 at Riverside Rehabilitation in Missoula, Mont. The former Bolton Hill resident was 79.
“In the era when ceramics teaching was mostly about basic techniques, Doug had his kids throwing clay,” said MICA’s former president, Fred Lazarus. “Whatever he did, it was somehow connected with his funny, wry sense of humor.”
Born in Bottineau, N.D., he was the son of Don Baldwin, a forester, and his wife, Sylvia. He moved with his family to Montana and graduated from Missoula County High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Montana. He initially focused on commercial art and illustration. While in the Army, he was an illustrator. He later studied printmaking while getting his master’s degree, also at the University of Montana.
In 1969 he moved to Baltimore and spent the next 34 years at the Maryland Institute College of Art, He taught on its faculty and was chair of the ceramics department from 1969 to 1978 and was a professor in ceramics from 1978 to 2003.
“He continued the baking tradition,” said a fellow MICA teacher, Ron Lang, who followed him as the ceramics chair. “Doug was not what you’d call a potter. He was a ceramicist — and he was interested in telling a story in his work.”
Mr. Lazarus, MICA’s former president, recalled how Mr. Baldwin employed his sense of humor.
“Doug had this kind of wry, quiet authority. Once, while he was out of town on a sabbatical, his friends had his identical twin brother, Wayne, come in and impersonate him all day,” said Mr. Lazarus. “A group even went out to the airport in a limousine to bring him to MICA. A few people were in on the joke and it worked perfectly. His brother looked like him and talked like him.”
Some of students dressed up in duck costumes and others waved welcome-back flags. A day later, both twin brothers were united at the Park Avenue home.
“His students were there and it was pandemonium,” said Mr. Lang. “Doug wanted his students to have their ideas and be excited about why they are making things. Some of the things he did were to inspire joy and excitement.”
Friends said that Mr. Baldwin’s interest once led him to work briefly in a commercial hobbyist ceramics company. He saw a mold for “The Blueboy” after the painting by Thomas Gainsborough and modified it with a mallard duck’s head. He created a lengthy installation, the “All Volunteer Redneck Duck Army Marching on the Yellowbrick Road,” a partial homage to “The Wizard of Oz,” a film he loved.
David Bogen, MICA provost, said, “Doug was known for his creativity and passion as a teacher and his sense of humor that entered fully into his work and creative practice. He was also known for his focus in his work on creating sculptural tableaux and serial narratives that used humor and satire to comment on ceramics, the studio and art history.”
David East, MICA’s ceramics department head, recalled Mr. Baldwin. “He was a quirky, funny man who was playful and creative. He was relatively quiet, humble and self-reflective.”
Mr. East also said, “Doug was ahead of his time in creating a ceramics program that was focused on ideas. His students remember his playful and creative approach to ceramics and education fondly. Doug is remembered as a mentor and enigmatic storyteller. He was known for his encouragement of young artists.
“He created a space filled with the permission for students to explore new directions and ideas in the medium,” said Mr. East.
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Mr. Baldwin and his students made ceramics that were sold at an annual December sale at MICA. The ceramics items they offered were the basis of a larger annual event, the Art Market, that continues at the school.
In recognition of his accomplishments, he was awarded the MICA Medal of Honor in 2003.
His ceramic work was included in exhibitions in Croatia, Japan and Canada. He also had exhibits at Indiana University and at MICA, as well as the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.