Glazed and Confused

DIGSAU will break ground on Philadelphia's new Center for Ceramic Arts

The new facility for The Clay Studio will be 67 percemt larger than the organization's former space, and includes a roof garden, an outdoor pavilion, and double the number of classrooms. (Courtesy of The Clay Studio)

On January 15, a new state-of-the-art ceramic facility designed by Philadelphia-based architecture firm DIGSAU will break ground for The Clay Studio, a nonprofit ceramics studio founded in 1974 that has serves approximately 35,000 members of the Philadelphia community annually. The organization will leave its location in a narrow 19th-century structure and move into the much larger, 32,000-square-foot building in the heart of the South Kensington neighborhood. “This is a defining moment,” executive director Jennifer Martin told Artdaily, “and together we are making a big dream a reality.”

DIGSAU’s design is a reflection of lessons learned by The Clay Studio’s interaction with the South Kensington neighborhood through the Claymobile, a mobile community engagement program that brings ceramics studios to schools, older adult facilities, community centers, and other social service agencies throughout the Philadelphia region. “Community is what began and sustained The Clay Studio for 45 years,” said Martin, “and community is what will make our new building a home.”

Exterior rendering of a building with a stone facade with varied window sizes

The 34,000-square-foot center will be in South Kensington, a neighborhood The Clay Studio has engaged through its Claymobile program. (Courtesy of The Clay Studio)

The new building, which will be 67 percent larger than the organization’s former space, will include a rooftop garden, an outdoor pavilion, and a number of classrooms that are twice the size of those in the current building. Studios dedicated to local and visiting artists will also be generously-sized to accommodate technologically-advanced art-making equipment, and the new building will have the flexibility to host exhibitions, conferences, and other special events. The ground floor’s interior will be visible from the street to promote a feeling of public accessibility, while the facade of the upper floor will modulate light with its variably-sized openings to produce the optimal conditions for ceramic production.

The groundbreaking reflects the success of a $13.7 million capital campaign that includes an allocation of New Markets Tax Credits from Philadelphia’s Economic Development Corporation (PIDC), as well as an award from the Windgate Foundation and contributions from local donors.

Making Place Matter, a major exhibition highlighting The Clay Studio’s commitment to its network of artists and the Philadelphia community, will be held in the new building’s main gallery space when completed in Spring 2021. The project will also be the first ground-up ceramics-oriented arts facility in the U.S.

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