Mikhail Zakin
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Co-founder of Old Church Cultural Center

Mikhail cq Zakin, a potter and art professor who co-founded helped found a cultural arts center in Demarest, has died. She was 92.

Mrs. Zakin her given name is pronounced "Michael" Michael established the Old Church Cultural Center in 1974 in an abandoned Baptist church on Piermont Road. Now called the Art School at Old Church, the non-profit offers dozens of art and craft classes for adults and children and shows contemporary art in a gallery bearing Mrs. Zakin's name.

At her death, the 61-year Closter resident was president of the center's board of directors and was teaching a master class in pottery there.

"Mikhail was an incredible teacher, not just about pottery but about life," said Maria Danziger, the center's executive director. "People wanted to be with her to learn and to grow. We are all better for knowing her."

The Brooklyn-born Mrs. Zakin spent a good part of her professorial career teaching ceramics at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and Sarah Lawrence College. She was one of the first women to build and fire a salt kiln, and her work with carbonized clay is in major collections internationally.

In a 2009 interview with |The Record, she recalled the origins of the Art School at Old Church.

"I used to drive into New York and pass this building that was all boarded up," she said, "and I kept having fantasies of being able to teach a little closer to home and to give something back to the community."

Rehabbing Rehabilitating the derelict church structure, blocks from Mrs. Zakin's home, became a community effort involving more than 100 people.

Less than a month before her death Sept. 9, Mrs. Zakin taught a five-session workshop titled "Low Tech Ceramics: Carbonized Clay" at the Truro (Mass.) Center for the Arts at Castle Hill.

She is survived by her daughters, Cleo Zakin of Ridgefield Park and Kyra Molitor of New Braunfels, Texas; a sister, Maxine Fischel of Fort Lee; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Her husband, Gabriel Zakin, who worked in medical advertising, died in 2005.

Arrangements were by Moritz Funeral Home. A celebration-of-life service will be held Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Art School at Old Church, 561 Piermont Road, Demarest.

Email: levin@northjersey.com
Published in The Record on Sep. 18, 2012.
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