An Update to the Community

As The Clay Studio (TCS) moves forward with its intentional work around Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion (DEAI), we want to keep the community updated on our process and progress. A DEAI Committee was formed in July 2020 as a response to police violence against Black people and the protests, discussions, and reexaminations of current institutions that followed. In 2021, we began working with  The ROZ Group to conduct an independent diversity assessment of The Clay Studio. This assessment allowed The ROZ Group to provide tailored DEAI training and to advise our staff and our board of directors on a strategic plan for a more inclusive and accessible organization. Below is a detailed report on our findings as well as our goals and action steps as we move forward.

Since our founding in 1974, we have been dedicated to sharing the power of ceramic art and education as a force for good in our community. We recognize that to live up to our values; we must continuously recommit to educating ourselves, listening to our community, and making changes based on the feedback we receive. Please follow our progress on this website, which will continue to evolve.

Report Update


As artists, advocates, and educators, The Clay Studio is committed to ensuring the space, support, and inspiration necessary for expression and mastery in the ceramic arts. We work in partnership with artists and the community to advance the ceramic arts as a force for good to build connections where all can flourish.

Anti-Racism and Diversity Statement

The Clay Studio is dedicated to being a community where everyone is treated with respect, humanity, and dignity. The Clay Studio is committed to the principles of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion and welcomes everyone.

The Clay Studio believes that access to artistic expression through ceramics should be available to all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or ability. When in alignment with our mission, we empower people who have been excluded or felt uninvited to take part in our programming and join our staff and board as we decolonize the lens through which we present ceramic art to our Philadelphia and the global ceramics community. 

Introduction and Process

The Clay Studio began intentional work in diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) in June of 2020, stemming from a place of uncertainty and fear of “not reacting the right way”. We knew that we had to address and correct injustices, and work towards understanding and actively dismantling discrimination and exculsivity, but found ourselves unsure of how to begin the work. Our process began with acknowledging our deficiencies and discomfort, launching a working group of senior staff and board focused on DEAI strategy, and creating an advisory committee (now the DEAI Committee) who make recommendations to the staff and board.

As our work began, it was clear that we needed expert external assistance, and the Committee identified and recommended partnering with The Roz Group (TRG). TRG was contracted to facilitate and guide The Clay Studio in earnest implementation of DEAI work in January of 2021, supported by funding from The Independence Foundation. TRG helped us “deal with authentic truths and self-reflection” that paved the way for us to identify our work ahead. This document outlines our commitment in the context of our historic work, core diversity values, our current landscape, and our ongoing work as we strive to become a model organization for DEAI in the arts and our community. The work we outline comes directly from recommendations from TRG and The DEAI Committee, as well as input from staff, board, and the community at large. The Roz Group Summary Report for The Clay Studio Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access initiative can be viewed here.

Although there are no other organizations that are identical to The Clay Studio, we recognized and reviewed organizations who overlap in service, mission, and community, and those whose approach to DEAI we appreciate. Additionally, we have looked at organizations who are in the process of identifying their own deficiencies and creating DEAI plans. We have referenced or adopted some content in this document from recommendations and prior work done by the American Alliance of Museums, the National Art Education Association, New Repertory Theatre, Archie Bray Foundation, Craft Now, Art-Reach, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Highfire Feminism, Jefferson University, Georgetown University, Racial Equity Tools, and The Roz Group.

DEAI Defined

As we discuss and engage in DEAI initiatives, we want to make sure we are all working from the same reference point, understanding, and context. Thus, we share the definitions from which we work, adopted from the American Alliance of Museums.

Diversity is all the ways that people are different and the same at the individual and group levels. Even when people appear the same, they are different. Organizational diversity requires examining and questioning the makeup of a group to ensure that multiple perspectives are represented.

Why this definition?

Our definition of diversity moves toward opportunities for groups to continually question whether they have adequate representation to make equitable programmatic, hiring, governance, financial, and other decisions. Any individual will have multiple identities and experiences. What it means to be diverse, in practice, will vary depending on the organization.

Equity is the fair and just treatment of all members of a community, including correcting unfair and imbalanced systems that perpetuate inequality. Equity requires commitment to strategic priorities, resources, respect, and civility, as well as ongoing action and assessment of progress toward achieving specific goals.

Why this definition?

Equity is the goal of our work. It requires deliberate attention to more than matters of recruitment, hiring, compensation, promotion, and retention. Equity includes governance, representation, and other indicators of power. It is, collectively, a step toward recognizing past exclusion and achieving genuine inclusion. Equity is not the natural state of things. We must deliberately apply time, resources, and consideration to achieve this goal. In addition, our organizations must develop relationships of trust and understanding.

Accessibility is giving equitable access to everyone along the continuum of human ability and experience. Accessibility encompasses the broader meanings of compliance and refers to how organizations make space for the characteristics that each person brings.

Why this definition?

The definition of accessibility is broadening beyond public accommodations and job opportunities. It’s not just about the physical environment: it’s about access to and representation in content for all. We must integrate those concerns into the definitions. Our understandings of accessibility include the legal definitions and provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but we’re striving for inclusive design. We want to go beyond compliance.

Inclusion refers to the intentional, ongoing effort to ensure that diverse individuals fully participate in all aspects of organizational work, including decision-making processes. It also refers to how diverse participants are valued as respected members of an organization and/or community. While a truly “inclusive” group is necessarily diverse, a “diverse” group may or may not be “inclusive.”

Why this definition?

We need organizations where diverse participants are truly integrated and valued as respected members of the organization and/or community beyond token participation and authority. The measure and success of inclusion must include the perspectives of the disenfranchised.

Link to The American Alliance of Museums definitions page

Links to Additional Terminology:

Racial Equity Tools Glossary, MP Associates, Center for Assessment and Policy Development, and World Trust Educational Services, July 2022.

Anti-Racism Glossary from Georgetown University Library

Core Diversity Values and Guidelines

The Clay Studio believes that a welcoming environment is critical to our Diversity Equity, Access, and Inclusion work. We do not tolerate anti-Blackness, racism, sexism, agism, homophobia, transphobia, white supremacy, colonialism, hatred, or any other forms of discrimination and oppression. This extends to artists, students, customers, employees, board members, volunteers, interns, partners, and patrons. We do not discriminate based on race, ethnic identity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, or religion. We are a safe place for citizens and non-citizens alike. We strive to accommodate those of any age and physical ability.

We hold ourselves and each member of our community accountable and expect everyone to embrace and uphold these values. We will act swiftly and respectfully to correct behavior that goes against these core values. We do not tolerate hate speech, violence, or intimidation. We also acknowledge that microaggressions can occur in less intentional but equally harmful manifestations. Therefore, The Clay Studio is prepared to take corrective actions that will seek to make room for education and conflict resolution before becoming punitive. We come from a place of respect and kindness but are committed to our responsibility to uphold shared community values. The Clay Studio asks that each member of our community commit to our agreement to ensure that we intentionally acknowledge our individual roles in creating a welcoming environment for all. Details of expectations, reporting and review process may be found in our Code of Conduct. (The final version of the document is still being edited. )

Shared Community Agreement

As a member of our community, you support our mission and values of access, community, inclusivity, and accountability. We agree:

  • We all have a shared responsibility in creating the space, support, and inspiration necessary for expression and mastery in the ceramic arts.
  • We welcome each other with open hearts and share space so all can learn and thrive.
  • We respect others: including their work, perspectives, and diverse backgrounds.
  • Everyone has something to learn; everyone has something to teach.
  • To be present & gentle with ourselves: Embrace the time we have given ourselves to be in the studio and with others; practice makes progress, not perfection.

Civility is required at all times; if anyone engages in racist/bigoted/threatening behavior, TCS has the right to remove the person from current or future programs, with due process. Details are outlined in staff and program handbooks.

Cultural Appropriation Curatorial Statement

We acknowledge that ceramic art has grown from the knowledge and experiences of cultures all over the world. 

The Clay Studio's goal is to educate and present art that shows respect, deep understanding, and acknowledgement of global historical and cultural precedents. We welcome thoughtful and honest conversation around these important issues, and invite all students and gallery viewers to communicate issues they perceive. We all have different perspectives and can work together to create an environment free from harm, and open to rich conversation.

We acknowledge the harm that can be caused by cultural appropriation. We understand cultural appropriation as the use or mimicry of images from another culture without acknowledgment, respect, and deep research from original sources.

When determining whether a work of art projects cultural appropriation, we ask three main questions:

  • Is the cultural source acknowledged?
  • Is the original culture deeply researched and understood?
  • Is the imagery used with reverence and respect?
Background and Historic Work

Founded in 1974 by five artists in need of workspace, The Clay Studio was envisioned as a stepping-stone for students fresh out of art school, offering affordable studio space and shared equipment. 

Within a short time, Clay Studio artists consciously shifted the Studio's mission from an inward focus to one that also embraced community engagement and education. In 1979, the Studio became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational institution.

The Clay Studio today is renowned for its unique ability to serve all levels of students, support emerging and established artists, and broaden ceramics as a contemporary art form. Our mission is to provide a unique environment in which to experience the ceramic arts; accordingly, we gear our programs to all levels of interest, proficiency, and financial means.

Launched in 1994, our largely grant-funded Claymobile program provides arts education services to schools, community groups, residential centers, and other partners throughout the City of Philadelphia. Many of these institutions serve predominantly Black and Brown communities, disabled communities, and/or youth. The Claymobile brings weekly ceramic hand-building classes to sites for 6-12 consecutive weeks, allowing participants to access sustained creative exploration and skill-based learning, with the same dedicated teaching artist and assistant with whom students can build consistent relationships. We are fully committed to this program and will continue to partner with current and new schools and other organizations.

Our exhibition program has included solo exhibitions of African American, Asian American, Latinx American, LGBTQ, and international artists, and group shows including artists from all walks of life. We have presented country-specific exhibitions from Eastern Europe, Israel, Puerto Rico, China, and Japan over the last 25 years. During the 2015 visit from Pope Francis, The Clay Studio presented Ashes to Ashes: Religion in Contemporary Ceramics which featured a broad array of religious themes in contemporary ceramics. However, The Clay Studio recognizes that past exhibitions have not been inclusive enough, and pledge to present artists from more diverse backgrounds and experiences, and to better highlight DEAI themes.

The Clay Studio’s Guest Artist in Residence Program has brought artists from over 45 countries including India, Spain, Korea, Egypt, and the Philippines. As a member of the International Academy of Ceramics, a UNESCO-affiliated program, we take pride in our work with international artists, and we are committed to presenting a diverse array of artists from around the globe. This Program continues to be important and relevant to The Clay Studio community as we strive to recognize and open up dialogue around the fine line between deliberate meaningful cultural engagement and misappropriated cultural presentation and consumption, both internationally and at home. 

Landscape of Current Operational Realities

The Clay Studio was a majority white arts institution located in the City of Philadelphia, a “majority minority” city and a city whose long-term residents currently experience displacement and hostility due to gentrification. We believe that our programming, board and staff composition, and ongoing planning must be in alignment with the city we serve. We must also be aware of our own potential to exacerbate the socio-economic dynamics of communities we visit and engage.

The Clay Studio has recently moved to South Kensington, which is a vastly different community than Old City with regard to race, religious faith, ethnic identity, citizenship status, language, age, and economic situations.

We believe that our move is a positive opportunity to work with the South Kensington community, which more closely represents the racial and socio-economic makeup of the City than the community of Old City. Diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion principles are more than good policy - these principles make us stronger, more representative of our community that we serve, and will lead to better business processes. To that end, we have secured two significant community engagement grants that seek to align our educational and artistic mission with the South Kensington community and the City at large in advance of our move. These grants have allowed us to organize Making Place Matter. Coinciding with our move, Making Place Matter launched as an exhibition, symposium, and publication designed to engage our new and current communities in dialogue about the meaning of place within the context of personal history, cultural heritage, and social justice. 

The Work: Action Steps

We recognize that we have much work to do and that our DEAI work is ongoing. We are committed to identifying and addressing our deficiencies with focused action, evolving into a benchmark organization. We intend to accomplish the following, presented in this chart.


We have learned a lot in the past two years, deliberately becoming more self aware and inclusive in our behavior. TRG has noted “this as a good beginning to a long journey that requires a great deal of empathy, patience, vulnerability, transparency, and self-reflection from both an individual and organizational perspective”.  We acknowledge that we still have a lot of work to do, and that our work is ongoing. We will continue to educate ourselves, evolve our work, and assess who is being represented or excluded, and observe and learn from current affairs, as we continue in this process. We vow to be intentional and action-oriented in working to create an Anti-Racist, diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive culture in which everyone feels a true sense of comfortable belonging.

DEAI Resources
Thank you to our partners & supporters

Thank you to the Roz Group for their expert listening and leadership during the assessment and initial training process.

Additionally, we are grateful to the Philadelphia Foundation for their generous support in helping us start this process.

Thank you to our partners & sponsors

roz group logo v5

The Roz Group

Consultanting team for assessment & training

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The Philadelphia Foundation

Generously supported the first phase of our work

Interested in getting involved?