We at NCC are on a continuous journey to develop programming initiatives and employ metrics that are fundamentally rooted and aligned in anti-racist practices and anti-oppressive principles in all areas of our internal and external work.
We commit to provide pathways that advance ceramic joy for individual and collective accountability towards the betterment of our clay community. This commitment is grounded in our belief that change is possible, and that our work—and that of the artistic community as a whole—will grow stronger as oppression is eliminated.
The following actions are a snapshot of where we are, and by no means a finish line. Rather we offer them here as benchmarks of how we are moving towards a more inclusive, equitable, and just organization.
- Beginning February 2021, NCC staff has dedicated 20 minutes to 1 hour of our bi-monthly staff meetings to a continued process of revelation that centers anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and anti-exclusionary practices in our operations as individuals and as an organization.
- In December 2021 and January 2022, NCC was guided by Courageous Change Collective’s team of practitioner consultants through two training sessions with teaching artists and staff. The focus for these facilitated sessions was what does it mean to be actively anti-racist and understanding white supremacy cultural norms in nonprofit organizations.
- With new staff joining NCC, and a recognition that much of the previous training efforts needed to be revisited, a formal Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEI+A) committee was formed to assess current and historical initiatives, goals, and action steps as well as create a strategic and actionable plan for building a framework and accountability into every program area and staff roles.
- NCC has implemented Education Access Scholarships options for our adult ceramics programming. We offer two scholarship options—a half-tuition scholarship open to artists and learners with financial need, and a full-tuition scholarship open to artists and learners who identify as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color.
- For scholarship students wishing to remain in the program, we have created a Studio Monitor Mentorship program. This program acts as a work/trade agreement and creates a path to ownership and leadership in the studio community. With time, it will evolve and improve representation in studio leadership roles.
- We have opened early registration for students on class waiting lists from the previous term to increase accessibility for adult class registration.
- Created accessible equipment and processes for students of varying abilities stemming from neuro abilities, physical limitations, and age.
- Added Wheel 101 for BIPOC Individuals teaches the basics of wheel throwing in a space dedicated to individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or a Person of Color and is intended to foster a safe, creative environment and introduction for BIPOC folks.
- Jury panelists are invited and included to ensure diverse representation on each panel.
- Panelists are publicly shared to increase transparency and trust and eliminate possible power dynamics.
- An internally-funded year-long BIPOC Emerging Artist Residency was created to replace the previous Jerome Foundation-funded “Artist of Color” Residency program that ended in 2017.
- Expanded the types of accepted resume and professional information that can be used to apply for grants and residencies in an effort to reach a broader audience while expanding inclusivity. Additionally, we have begun accepting submissions as spoken narrative audio files to further expand the inclusivity of our application and jury process.
ClayToGo–NCC’s community engagement program for youth and families.
- Whenever possible, we place priority on populations who reside in lower-income brackets and who do not have the same access to creative experiences as others. Our work in this area relies on strong partnerships with Twin Cities schools and community organizations serving youth in need.
- With generous funds from several foundations and corporate gifts, NCC was able to meet demand for new and returning partnerships with local schools, community organizations, and service agencies in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding suburbs. During the calendar year 2022, NCC’s teaching artists led 69 new and returning partnerships, with over 2,660 individuals, including students in Pre-K through twelfth grades. An additional 16 public clay sessions were offered via public/free community programs, which reached over 1,700 additional youth, families, and adults.
- Some programs were short-tenured, providing 1 – 2 hours of creative engagement for a particular group of youth; others were long-tenured, taking place over several weeks, or, in some cases, over the course of an entire semester or school year, wherein youth had 30 – 50 contact hours with clay.
- We invited our partner organizations to share demographics for the constituencies with which we worked, and a majority of these sites reported that some 60%+ of the population served were people living below the poverty line, 45%+ were considered “youth at risk,” and more than 65% of the participants self-identified as BIPOC.
- NCC dedicated over $40,000 of its internally-generated grant funds to support these community programs, which amounted to 50% of the total programming costs for our ClayToGo program in 2022.
- In conjunction with NCC’s fall exhibition, A Gathering, Works from ‘Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists’—which brought to 3-dimension a first of its kind exhibition featuring Black American clay artists—enabled 11 participating artists to visit NCC for conversations and workshops for the public, three of who visited with select school and community partners. We were excited to provide clay experiences led by Black makers in collaboration with NCC teaching artists, with the hope that when Black students and students of color see someone who looks like them leading their clay classes, they will see their own potential future in the ceramic arts!
“This is a wonderfully inviting medium: young learners exercise their agency when they manifest their visions with clay…NCC has made it possible for our students to experience working with clay and to grow their skills over the years.”
ART@HAND–NCC’s vital aging programs for adults 55 and greater.
- In addition to our work with youth and families, we led vital aging programs with adults 55 and greater of all abilities, locales, and economic means, through strategic partnerships with organizations that serve this population. With such partners as Fairview Ebenezer, Common Bond, Opportunity Partners, and Sholom, NCC teaching artists provided creative lifelong learning opportunities through over 46 unique programs to over 1100 aging adults.
“The positive benefits of NCC’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.”
Other Outreach-Related Efforts
- Every aspect of our work in the community was guided by NCC’s strategic objectives and buttressed by NCC’s efforts to ensure diversity, equity, inclusion and access in all we do. From listening intently to our partners’ and their constituents’ needs; to working closely with them to provide safe and welcoming spaces in which our clay work could occur; to enabling as many interested persons to participate as space and resource allowed; to providing entry points to the medium for the novice, the experienced, and the spectator alike; to thoughtfully providing the appropriate tools, resources, training and support to our teaching roster of individuals who comprise many decades of life and experience, varying physical abilities, myriad teaching styles and philosophies, and a plethora of invisible disabilities.
- One of NCC’s long-time funders of youth-related programming has enabled our support of clay campers who otherwise would be unable to attend a summer clay camp at NCC given their family’s financial position. In 2022, we were able to provide 16 partial scholarships (value of which ranged from 15 to 100% of the camp cost) for a total of $1700 in support.
- We reevaluated the process as well as the existing language in our artist agreements in an effort to increase accessibility, transparency, as well as demystify terms, and eliminate power dynamics.
- Added a staff position–Sales Gallery Artist Relations Associate–dedicated to researching historically marginalized and under-represented artists in the medium of clay to invite to gallery opportunities. This position acknowledges artists newer to NCC, reaches out to build meaningful relationships, and partners with interested artists to submit paperwork in a successful and supported gallery representation.
- In an effort to recognize the barrier of shipping costs for ceramic work, and to build trust with new-to-NCC artists by taking on the onus of this cost, NCC is responsible for all shipping costs for BIPOC artists for one year.
- When soliciting vendors for events, NCC prioritizes BIPOC- and women-owned businesses and products with a special focus on those businesses that give back to the community and have values that align with our own.
- Gallery staff is creating guidelines pertaining to cultural appropriation in works in the galleries with the goal of identifying and eliminating cultural appropriation in the gallery and creating a space that feels safe to all. NCC sees the challenging conversation with artists as an opportunity to share our values, and while some conversations have been extremely difficult, most have been received with understanding and increased awareness. Cultural appropriation in the galleries is an ongoing and evolving work in progress.
- The Galusha Gallery has traditionally been utilized for smaller or complementary exhibitions. No curators were paid for designing exhibitions in this space. This gallery is now used as a resource to provide an exhibition space for emerging curators and makers with a focus on historically-marginalized communities. NCC internally funds a curator stipend for every externally-curated exhibition, works alongside each emerging curator/artist to share knowledge and resources and co-produce the exhibition, and partners with the curator/artist and education program areas at NCC to create impactful and accessible educational programming.
- NCC now works with a local company to produce a virtual 3D tour of all exhibitions. These are available at no cost to the public and offer accessibility to those who cannot visit the physical space, to educators to use as a free educational resource, and to artists to add to their own portfolios.
- NCC produces a juried exhibition that features the work of NCC members every other year that was reevaluated and permanently expanded in 2022 to include K-12 students and educators.
- The jurors (paid opportunity) on the panel have historically been selected with diversity as a priority, and their names and backgrounds are now shared publicly before submissions are requested to increase transparency.
- NCC expanded the member show, in recognition of membership posing a barrier to entry, to K-12 students and educators.
- NCC offered free Education Memberships to all applicants that offered information regarding free educational events at NCC and a substantial discount on all paid educational events for one year.
- Offering an exhibition opportunity to students and educators, historically overlooked in the gallery system, created a more inclusive exhibition and is an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with the hope of further diversifying the field of ceramics.
Finance & Human Resources
Administratively, we have evaluated our internal controls, financial systems, cybersecurity, and other digital tools that were in place before and during the pandemic, in order to recommend improvements that will have a lasting impact long after the pandemic is over. What we discovered also led us to investigate what mechanisms and habits were at play, so that they can be revised to be more effective, equitable, and inclusive moving forward.
- From that process of inquiry and exploration we were able to streamline our invoicing procedures, activate resources to keep our artists’ financial information secure, and intentionally seek out local, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and women-led companies to purchase goods and services from.
- Additionally, we have developed and incorporated data visualization tools that are color blindness-friendly to our internal monthly reporting for our board of directors to provide alternative viewpoints for understanding the organization’s financial data.
- Through the process of collective decision making, we have embarked on revising the employee handbook to develop staff benefits packages and policies through an equity lens and better incorporate the organization’s inclusive culture.
- We have adopted inclusive hiring practices as we feel it’s vital towards fostering productivity, innovation, multiple perspectives, improved employee retention, and a host of other organizational benefits.