Our History

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 an emphasis on 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 while broadening ceramics as a contemporary art form. Our mission is to provide a unique learning environment in which to experience the ceramic arts; accordingly, we gear our programs to all levels of interest, proficiency, and financial means.

Milestones

1974

The Clay Studio was founded by Jill Bonovitz, Betty Parisano, Janice Merendino, Kathy Regan , and Ken Vavrek. The women were students at Moore College of Art where Vavrek was their teacher. They formed the organization in order to share resources and support each other in their artistic pursuits.

1979

The Clay Studio applied for, and was granted, non-profit status based on our service to artists, school children, and adult ceramic art students in the area.

1980

A major fire destroyed the interior of The Clay Studio’s first home on Orianna Street. A philanthropic friend of the organization, Burt Horowitz, helped us raise the needed funds to move to 47-49 N. 2nd Street.

1981

When the new location opened the Resident Artist program was more fully established, the class offerings were extended, a shop was added, and a professional staff was hired.

1990

The Clay Studio moved to 137-139 N. 2nd Street, established more professional studio, shop, and gallery spaces to serve the ever-growing constituency.  Initially the building was shared with several other arts organizations.

1991

Evelyn Shapiro Foundation established the Shapiro Fellowship for one exceptional Resident Artist each year to receive a stipend and special solo exhibition.  The Fellowship was highly sought after and quickly became a prestigious award in the ceramic art community for the 24 years it was offered.

1992

A significant Pew Grant was awarded to The Clay Studio to fund the groundbreaking exhibition East European Ceramics, as well as the inauguration of the Guest Artist Program, which began by inviting ceramic artists from behind the Iron Curtain to visit Philadelphia and make artwork at The Clay Studio for the exhibition.

1994

Katherine Narrow, Managing Director and former Resident Artists, established the Claymobile program.  Through Claymobile teaching artists are sent to dozens of schools and organizations around the Philadelphia area with all the tools and supplies necessary to teach a full ceramics class. Each school residency can last from 1 to 10 visits.  Today, more than 2,500 students each year receive high quality, inspiring ceramic art classes.

2002

Amy Sarner Williams, also a former Resident Artist, was named Executive Director and led an expansion of The Clay Studio to the utilize the full 21,000 square feet of the building at 137-139 N. 2nd Street.

2010

In conjunction with the conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) The Clay Studio organized the major exhibition Interactions in Clay, a citywide exhibition with art located at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Eastern State Penitentiary, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology.

2014

40th Anniversary Celebration culminated in a 40 hour long event in the gallery featuring Ehren Toole and Jesse Albrecht throwing on the wheel through the night.

2018

Clay Together capital campaign under the direction of Executive Director, Jennifer Martin. Even after three homes and three expansions within our current building, our classes are sold out with waiting lists, and we have artists clamoring to use our space. The project will allow us to build our own permanent home, slated to open in 2020, to accommodate our ever-growing audience of ceramic artists and enthusiasts.

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