Sustaining Collaborations with Our Community

Creating experiential and lifelong learning opportunities is a goal of Northern Clay Center’s outreach program. While not always possible given the constraints of funding and the competing demands on our partner staff and teaching artists’ schedules, sometimes these opportunities take on a life of their own, ultimately becoming sustainable, with a little help from some very important individuals.

Brynne Macosko Paguyo is one such individual. Her love of teaching and clay find common ground each year at Southside Family School (SSFS) in Minneapolis. A classroom teacher at SSFS for over 25 years, she has been the critical ingredient in the success of NCC’s long-term partnership with SSFS, which dates back to 2001. Macosko Paguyo has been our ceramics instructor at SSFS since 2008 and annually engages the student population in in-depth clay experiences. NCC provides logistical support, tools, clay and other necessary materials, and fires completed student work in our kilns. With this particular structure of programming, the school is able to employ the talent they already have on staff and get access to a temporary clay studio and firing facilities each year.

A participant at this year’s SSFS collaboration. “Will my gnome get lonely in the kiln if you don’t make one too?”

“Clay club cultivates authentic exploration. Not only do students experiment with creating forms and textures, they also navigate their understanding of sculpture and 3D space. This is a wonderfully inviting medium. Young learners exercise their agency when they manifest their visions with clay…Northern Clay Center has made it possible for our students to experience working with clay and to grow their skills over the years. Our school would not be able to have a clay program without Northern Clay Center…Children are able to make work that lasts. They create sculptures that they and their family and friends can cherish. They make drinking vessels, bowls, plates on which they and their family and friends can eat. This is such an amazing and empowering experience,” stated Macosko Paguyo.

This year, seventh and eighth grade students had the opportunity to resume their studies in clay after a break due to COVID and scheduling conflicts last year. The experience was nostalgic for them, as reported by Macosko Paguyo.

Nostalgia drives the efforts of another important individual who leads NCC’s work with long-time partner Martin Luther Manor. Teaching artist Susan Obermeyer has, over the past decade, shared the wonders of art and clay with hundreds of people who have resided at or participated in programs at Martin Luther Manor in Bloomington, Minnesota. Our initial work with this partner began in 2009, as our organization was in the preliminary months of launching its ART@HAND program. Obermeyer took over as lead teaching artist there in 2011.

On a monthly basis, Obermeyer visits three different constituencies at Martin Luther Manor for a 90-minute workshop. Residents who live in the assisted living apartments at Meadow Woods, people who spend a few days each week at Campus Club Adult Day Center, and residents receiving care at Martin Luther Care Center gather monthly to create art together and to share conversation and community.

“The objects created become cherished gifts for the resident’s families. The residents give their work to sons and daughters, grandchildren, and friends. Many times, I’ve heard stories that pieces created by residents are kept and beloved by their families, who have later displayed the art at their loved one’s wake and funeral. The families cherish the art their loved one sculpted with their hands, painted with their brushstrokes, and created toward the end of their lives.”

“The positive benefits of Northern Clay Center’s programming with this constituency cannot be understated. Many of the residents are experiencing a difficult time in their lives. They may even be close to the end of their life, but for a brief 90 minutes, they can forget what’s going on in their world. Creating allows the mind to focus on what is right in front of you. Other thoughts and worries tend to disappear, if only for a brief time…An atmosphere of positivity exists when we’re together. Much kindness and laughter are expressed.

“Having the opportunity to teach clay to the lovely people at Martin Luther Manor fills my heart with joy. I’ve had the honor of working with so many these past years. Friendships have been formed, stories have been shared, creativity shared, and happiness felt by all. This experience is priceless.”