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Skirball Cultural Center

Los Angelesbased artist Adam Silverman collected clay, water, and wood ash from all fifty American states, Washington DC, and the five inhabited US Territories and combined them to create a set of tableware and ceremonial pots. The resulting 224 ceramic objects, titled Common Ground, is a community-activated artwork that celebrates American pluralism while also fostering human connection through shared meals and collaborative installations.


Common Ground will be on display in Ruby Commons and FREE to see for all Skirball visitors.

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About the Exhibition

Common Ground is a community-activated artwork by Los Angelesbased artist Adam Silverman that celebrates American pluralism while also fostering human connection through shared meals and collaborative installations.  

With the participation of nearly one hundred people from across the country, Silverman collected clay, water, and wood ash from all fifty American states, Washington DC, and the five inhabited US Territories (Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands). He then combined these materials to make a single, fully integrated, new material, erasing the borders of statehood and reimagining the country as a single, unified place. Silverman used this new combined material to make the glazes for Common Ground, which includes a tableware set of fifty-six plates, fifty-six bowls, fifty-six cups, as well as fifty-six ceremonial pots. The 224 objects are similar to one another in form, size, and composition, yet each is intentionally unique—just like each human being. The ceramics are intended as tools to facilitate conversation and build community.  

A major new addition to the Skirball’s permanent museum collection, Common Ground will be exhibited and activated throughout 2024, during which time Silverman will also serve as the Skirball’s Artist in Residence. In collaboration with foodways scholar Dr. Scott Alves Barton and supported by local chefs as well as the Skirball’s executive chef, Sean Sheridan, the Skirball will host a series of communal gatherings during this year-long exhibition, bringing people from different communities together using the plates, bowls, cups, and ceremonial pots that comprise Common Ground

During a time of widespread division in the United States, Common Ground hopes to bridge political, cultural, and socioeconomic differences by bringing people together around the expansive possibilities of shared human experiences.  

Curatorial Acknowledgments

The exhibition of Common Ground by Adam Silverman at the Skirball is curated by Associate Curator Vicki Phung Smith.  

Activations of Common Ground are organized by Public Programs Vice President Marlene Braga and Senior Programs Associate Julie Gumpert. 

Exhibition designers include Kulapat Yantrasast, Bob Dornberger, and Shinsuke Ito.  

Common Ground Programming

The Skirball will be scheduling a number of Common Ground "activations" throughout the year, including meals, performances, and workshops. Visit this page often for program updates Related to This Exhibition.

About the Artist in Residence

A man standing with arms crossed in front of large table in a large windowed room. The table has row and rows of pottery vessel on it.

Adam Silverman with installation of Common Ground ceremonial pots at Grace Farms, New Canaan, CT. Photo: Jacek Dolata, courtesy of Adam Silverman.

Known for his sculptural vessels, richly expressionistic glazes, and engagement with locally foraged materials, Adam Silverman is among the most thoughtful and dynamic practitioners dedicated to ceramics today. Silverman’s training in architecture is often evident in his ambitious installations and the structural clarity and precarity of his objects. He develops and utilizes personal, exploratory techniques to glaze and fire his works. 

Silverman was born in 1963 in New York, NY, and received a Bachelor of Fine Art and a Bachelor of Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1987 and 1988. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. 

Silverman’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum, Kasama, Japan; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX; Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV; Palm Springs Art Museum, CA; Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI; Shiga Museum of Art, Otsu City, Japan; Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA; and the Yale Art Gallery, New Haven, CT. 

Throughout the 2024 calendar year, Adam Silverman will be the Skirball’s Artist in Residence, participating in programming with the Skirball team and the broader Los Angeles community. 

About the Foodways Scholar

Dr. Scott Alves Barton is a foodways scholar with a twenty-five–year career as an executive chef, consultant, and culinary educator. He holds a PhD in food studies from New York University and is a cultural anthropologist of African diaspora foodways at the University of Notre Dame. 

His research, films, and publications focus on the intersection of secular and sacred cuisine as a marker of identity politics, feminine agency, cultural heritage, political resistance, and self-determination in Northeastern Brazil. 

During his professional culinary career, Dr. Barton was named one of the top twenty-five best African/African American chefs by Ebony magazine. He is on the board of the Association for the Study of Food and Society, the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, and the African Diaspora Religions Committee of the American Academy of Religion. He is also a member of the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Awards committee and an advisor to the Indigo Arts Alliance. Dr. Barton has been a fellow at the Instituto Sacatar, the Fundação Palmares in Brazil, the Institute for Critical Investigation at Vanderbilt University, the Tepoztlán Institute for Transnational History of the Americas, and is an ongoing fellow at Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee. 

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Donor Support

The Common Ground exhibition and its related educational programs at the Skirball Cultural Center are made possible through the generous support of:

Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation
Kayne Family Foundation
Nancy Lainer
Julia Stewart Family Charitable Fund