ClayToGo Partner Spotlight: Northrup Elementary

January kicked off numerous after-school programs with Twin Cities elementary and middle schools. At the time of the drafting of this newsletter text, NCC had deployed nine teaching artists to lead 15 weekly, afternoon programs. Our goal: to provide creative arts experiences to dozens and dozens of participating youth.

The majority of our partners face barriers to access the creative arts, both financial and the very nature of the material—its cumbersome weight and fragility; the associated mess with clay processes; and the heavy, large, and expensive equipment required for a sustaining ceramics studio. These materials and supporting equipment for working with and finishing ceramics are not universally accessible to schools or individuals. NCC utilizes our existing resources of teaching artists, equipment, and technical expertise to support school arts programs during the school year.

One of our new partners is Northrup Elementary, a community school located in the Standish-Ericsson neighborhood of south Minneapolis. Northrup focuses on environmental education and enjoys their proximity to Lake Hiawatha and Minnehaha Creek. What better art medium to introduce as part of the after-school program—one that comes from nature itself!

Led by one of our newer teaching artists, Julian Gruber, this weekly clay class will run for 14 weeks in total, reaching up to 30, third through fifth grade students. Initially we signed on for the first seven weeks and our contact there, Krystalyn Everson, invited NCC back before we even completed the first iteration of classes. She was quite pleased with the programming!

“They bring quality to our program. Teaching staff have compassion, not only for what they teach, but also for our students. Our students absolutely love the class and we highly value the partnership.”

A major reason for this reality: Julian’s instruction and classroom presence. A graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Julian came to NCC with a background in ceramics and a major in the Philosophy of Creativity: Expression, Curation, Aesthetics. He was a 2022 graduate of NCC’s MN New Institute for Ceramic Education program after spending a summer as our Dona Turbes Summer Studio Intern.

“Teaching clay projects after school reminds me how kids have boundless ideas to go along with their boundless energy. In my class, I invite my students to imagine new things as I help them problem-solve to achieve their results. Seeing their ideas take shape is inspiring for me, as I hope it is for them.”

The participant’s clay explorations have included, “imagined islands, four-legged friends, dragons, wall hangings, and treasure pots. There is design, discovery, laughter, and problem-solving happening in almost all my classes. So, I’d say we’re on track!”

One of the Northrup participants has his own clay history—his father is a potter! A budding artist, Walt has thoroughly enjoyed his clay experience under the direction of Julian.

“I like how we make a bunch of different stuff every week. I like how we can use our imagination. I like how we make something how we want to make it.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Center’s after-school clay programs, email