People practice wheelthrowing at the Clay Studio's new facility on North American Street

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When the Clay Studio left the Old City storefront it had called home since 1980 for a warehouse on an emerging Kensington arts corridor, it got a whole lot more than 13k extra square feet.

The nonprofit gallery and ceramic school is building upon its mission of making art — dubbed a “fundamental necessity” by deputy director Josie Bockelman  — by re-introducing itself to the neighborhood.

“We made a really big push to go out and meet our neighbors,” said Bockleman.

The studio’s relationship with Kensington dates to 1994, when it started sending out the pop-up Claymobile to host youth art summer camps and short-term ceramic workshops at schools and community centers around the city.

Now headquartered in 34,000 square feet at 1425 N. American St., across from the Crane Arts Building, The Clay Studio is getting to know and giving back to its new community. Its seventh annual Clayfest christened the new space in August, with wheel throwing demonstrations and free workshops on how to make everything from an ice cream bowl to miniature owls.

At the center, there’s free programming nearly every Saturday and on the second Tuesday of each month, when it opens the community pavilion for hands-on clay sculpting sessions.

For returning students and potterers, the studio’s new space lived up to expectations.

“At first I was resistant to change. I thought, ‘This is not going to be as good. It’s not going to be as congenial,’” recalled Cynthia Byer, who’s been attending workshops at the Clay Studio for two years. “But it is.”

Fall classes begin on Sept. 28, with 8 to 10 week courses ranging from $150 to $350 depending on skill level and materials. Adults can enroll in anything from an introduction to wheelthrowing (forming cups and bowls on a potter’s wheel) to more advanced handbuilding classes that add textures and patterns. There’s also a teen-centric curriculum.

Hear more about the Clay Studio’s mission — and how you can get involved — in the video below by WHYY Youth Journalism Camp students.

YouTube video