The Clay Studio’s New State-of-the-Art Facility Will Open on April 8

-Courtesy of En Route Marketing

On April 8, The Clay Studio’s new state-of-the-art, 34,000-square foot home at 1425 North American Street opens in the heart of Philadelphia’s South Kensington neighborhood. The facility, designed by DIGSAU, will be the first-of-its-kind ceramic arts facility built  from the ground up in the United States. 

The Clay Studio, established in 1974, is a non-profit arts institution dedicated to promoting and  developing ceramic arts. Over nearly five decades, The Clay Studio has grown from a collective of five  artists to a thriving collaborative fellowship of artists, teachers, and professional staff serving 35,000  people each year with the highest quality artistic, educational, and community programs. 

The massive project is the culmination of a $14.5 million capital campaign. Significant support for the  project included an allocation of New Markets Tax Credits from Philadelphia Industrial Development  Corporation (PIDC), with additional financing from Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Reinvestment  Fund, and Wells Fargo. Major support for The Clay Studio’s new facility came from the Windgate  Foundation, William Penn Foundation, The Zeldin Family Foundation, The Kamens Family, Brian E  Daggett & Franz J Rabauer, The Jill & Sheldon Bonovitz Foundation, Marie & Joe Field, Connelly  Foundation, Nancy Scheller Hays, Michael A. Lukasek, City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce  Neighborhood Funding Stream, Marlin & Regina Miller, Linda J. Jacobsen, Richard & Dale Levy, Fleur S.  Bresler, and Penn Treaty SSD. The broad-based campaign attracted 367 community residents, artists,  and students.  

In the heart of one of the city’s most vibrant arts corridors, the new four-story facility allows The Clay  Studio to expand its services and spaces by 67%, paving the way for vast new possibilities for studio art,  arts education, and community and youth engagement. Additionally, artists will enjoy a 27% increase in  Resident Artist studio space and a 193% increase in classroom space. The additional square footage  increase allows visitors to view 600 pieces from the permanent collection, never before displayed. 

The Design– “When the architects (DIGSAU) were thinking about their vision for this new architectural landmark’s  building facade, the inspiration was patchwork and multiple layers coming together,” says Jennifer  Martin, Executive Director of The Clay Studio. “The multiple layers of the brickwork relate to the process  of working in clay; building community is also about the process. We hope to develop layers of support  and trust with our new community.” 

Textural buff-colored bricks across the front of the building reference the unglazed bisqueware pottery  produced after a single kiln firing. This neutral backdrop is highlighted by bright accents of orange glazed  bricks marking critical public spaces within the building. Philadelphia’s early 20th-century warehouses 

provide the language for the building’s expressive but straightforward facade, connecting the building to  the city’s tradition of masonry construction and referencing a golden era of manufacturing and craft.  Traditional brickwork elements such as “raking” and “corbelling” are reinterpreted at a monumental  scale to create a richly textured, undulating facade highlighted by vivid shadows tracking the sun’s  movement throughout the day. 

The Clay Studio engaged and worked with local businesses on the look and outfit of the interior of the  building. Local companies that helped shape The Clay Studio’s appearance include Tiny WPA, Milder  Furniture, Cofco, Millwork Innovations, In Motion Designs, Ceramic Shop, and T Frank McCalls. 

“Place” has been an essential theme to The Clay Studio since its inception as a space for shared  creativity around clay. The building’s first floor contains generous windows showcasing its expansive  layout, including the Jill Bonovitz Gallery, a demonstration studio, and a shop that welcomes the  community at street-level entries set within the angular brickwork. An outdoor covered pavilion on the  ground floor boasts an impressive adjoining workspace that can double as a 160-person event space.  The Nicholas Kripal Memorial Sculpture Garden allows guests to sit outdoors and relax, surrounded by  pieces from The Clay Studio’s permanent collection. 

The second floor is home to classrooms and requisite kiln rooms, including top-of-the-line kiln and  wheel brands. The kiln rooms offer 88% more kiln capacity than the old building; a daily firing schedule  of kilns allows for a 24-hour turnaround process.  

The upper floors reveal a rhythmic and varied window design, suggesting a “curio cabinet” of activity.  The third floor is dedicated to artist workspaces, ceramic studios, and state-of-the-art prototyping  spaces. The fourth floor contains offices, a shared kitchen, and a classroom that connects to an open air rooftop with a retractable roof. The outdoor space functions as a second event location,  accommodating 160 guests.  

Neighbors – The new facility deepens the relationship between The Clay Studio and the South Kensington  community. These bonds began with the Claymobile, The Clay Studio’s 25-year-old community  engagement program having its studio in South Kensington. This mobile “pop up” ceramic studio has  expanded in scope in recent years and now includes artist-led workshops, organized shared meals, and  conversational exchanges. Claymobile programs engage the community to learn more about each  other’s history and culture. The community programming serves 4,000 youth and adults annually and  partners with 95 schools, community, and social service organizations around the Philadelphia region. 

The Clay Studio is also committed to fostering the next generation of artists. The fourth floor of the new  building offers a special classroom, specifically designed with youth in mind. The tables can adjust to  meet the height of any student, and pottery wheels have been placed in an ergonomic way to allow  teachers and students to work in tandem. 

This summer, The Clay Studio will launch camps for children ages 6 to 17. In June, a drop-in program will  begin for participating adults; children accompanied by adults are welcome on Saturdays from 2 to 4  p.m. The facility will host a free after-school program for neighborhood elementary students in the fall,  with the goal to expand the program to include middle and high school students.

“We know the transformative power of clay and look forward to sharing our love for the material and its  creative possibilities with our neighbors, local partners, and the larger community in this inspiring new  building,” said Josie Bockelman, Deputy Director of The Clay Studio. 

The Inaugural Exhibition – The cornerstone of the new facility, the Jill Bonovitz Gallery, hosts the inaugural exhibition, Making  Place Matter, supported by a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, which complements The  Clay Studio’s permanent collection, programming, and store. Making Place Matter hopes to engage  visitors in a rich conversation around “place,” clay, and artists. Using clay and cultural heritage as  sources of inspiration, Making Place Matter features Philadelphia-based, Peruvian-born artist Kukuli  Velarde, American-born, Massachusetts-based artist Molly Hatch, and Egyptian American artist Ibrahim  Said, now based in North Carolina. The Community Studio adjacent to the Jill Bonovitz Gallery offers  space for guests to consider the exhibition while making their own clay artwork. The front-facing  windows allow passers-by to see art-making in progress, encouraging them to come in and participate.  The exhibition runs from April 23 through October 2, 2022, and is free to the public. 

The Clay Studio is free and open to the public Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday  and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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