A ceramic artist with ties to this area, Guillermo “Memo” Guardia has received a $25,000 Fellowship in Ceramics Award from the McKnight Foundation.

Guardia, who has lived in St. Paul for two years, is one of two ceramic artists to receive the annual McKnight fellowship, which allows him to continue working on his art, he said.

The award also includes an invitation to show his artwork at an exhibition next summer at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis.

“It’s a great honor” to receive the award, said Guardia, a native of Peru who came to Grand Forks in 2002 to pursue graduate studies at UND. “You need someone to tell you that you are doing a good job. It’s recognition; the validation is great.”

While in Grand Forks, he earned a master's degree in fine arts at UND with a focus on ceramics and worked as an art teacher, including for children’s workshops, at the North Dakota Museum of Art.

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His artwork has been exhibited at the NDMOA and the Muddy Waters Clay Center in Grand Forks. It is on display at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo until the end of August.

Guardia is known for ceramic pieces that depict the human form, such as the torso, and llamas. His representations of the human body often are comprised of puzzle pieces to suggest aspects or various experiences of one’s life.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and the nation’s subsequent invasion of Iraq, Guardia began experimenting with his “devil baby” ceramic sculptures, some of them painted in camouflage or carrying knives and guns.

After 15 years living and working in Grand Forks, Guardia moved to St. Paul in 2017 to pursue his art as a resident in the Schlitz Artists’ Loft, a restored, 100-year-old former brewery building.

Since moving to St. Paul, he has been working on new ideas having to do with “memories and what home means,” he said of that artwork being influenced by the cartoons he watched as a child.

Guardia returns to this area several times a year, usually to deliver art.

“Most of my collectors are in Grand Forks and North Dakota. Grand Forks was like my second home,” said Guardia, describing the Twin Cities area “is a great place but it’s still too new to call home.”

Guardia said he hopes that the exposure his artwork will receive at the exhibit at the Northern Clay Center “will lead to new opportunities, better opportunities, and be a good step forward in my career here,” he said.