Northern Clay Center’s outreach programming has been going strong for over two decades, making clay more accessible by bringing teaching artists into community locations throughout the Twin Cities and across the state of Minnesota. Since the inception of our outreach program, NCC has served over 125,000 people off-site in schools, community centers, libraries, senior living facilities, and many other locations. In schools, we work with art educators to enable them to take on larger clay projects than they might otherwise be able to, whether due to logistical capacity or financial restrictions. This year has presented all of us with unprecedented challenges. For art educators remote and hybrid learning environments created new problems to solve. They must find ways to personally connect with remote students, foster connections to art only viewed through a screen, and provide complex curriculum.
Additionally, art educators must ensure that these experiences can be equitably accessible to students across a wide range of demographics. To all art educators out there who have been grappling through this year—we honor you and are here to support you in whatever ways we can.
In response, NCC has focused on expanding our resources for Art Educators. We have contracted NCC teaching artists to develop lesson plans specially geared for teaching from a distance. One teaching artist created a series of video lectures on ceramic art history featuring thousands of years of history, cultures, and context. We have also created a variety of supplemental materials including video demos, worksheets, vocabulary sheets, and other helpful handouts.
Providing ceramic materials to students who are distance learning and finishing and firing their projects provides additional challenges for art educators. This year, with all the changes to curriculum, format, and the many technological barriers, providing students with an opportunity to create physical art work is more important than ever. NCC is working with schools to make materials kits of clay, colored slips, and tools available for students to create with clay at home. We then coordinate pick up and firing of projects and return them to the school. We can work with educators across the state on projects such as a distance-led clay residencies, lessons, or after school learning experiences.
NCC has continued to work with schools to support arts learning even in the face of a pandemic that limits our in-person programming capacity. Teaching artists have led classes over Zoom and Google Meets, fostering learning with elementary and middle school students in multiple school districts since mid-March. We have also continued to off after school programs both at individual school districts and developed a brand new after school Clay Club at NCC.
NCC’s community of clay enthusiasts brought some unexpected opportunities this year as well. While friends of the Clay Center cleaned out their homes and studios, some have asked us for opportunities to donate equipment and materials to schools or community organizations. As individuals reach out with possible donations, NCC has been able to link them with community partners who could utilize new equipment. We were able to place a kick wheel with a volunteer-run community arts program and create a connection for a school to help replace their broken kiln.
NCC is here to support you in whatever way we can and to help provide engagement with clay during this difficult chapter in our lives. Ways to be involved and that we can support you include:
- We are looking for arts educators to work with NCC teaching artists to develop new digital content.
- NCC artists can digitally lead guest lessons to your students.
- We can provide artists for digital critiques with your students.