2021 is a big year for The Clay Studio

The Clay Studio Old City Building.

Big things are in store for Philadelphia’s own historic and artistic organization, The Clay Studio.

After breaking ground on their all-new facility located in the Kensington area of the city this spring, the Studio has also just announced four new exhibitions that will be calling their Old City facility home come this summer, with more plans for artistic expansion in their new venue coming soon as well.

Falling Short of Heaven by Peter Barbor. Provided

The Clay Studio first started in Old City in 1974 with only five artists on their roster. In the present day, however, The Clay Studio features a collaborative fellowship of artists, teachers, and professional staff serving 35,000 people a year. One of the main goals of the new facility is to continue to deepen relationships between The Clay Studio and the South Kensington community, and in recent years, the organization has expanded its educational programming in the neighborhood to include artist-led workshops, classes, and discussions to better understand culture and place.

The new building’s design also helps strengthen that transparent relationship with an intentionally open and publicly accessible ground floor, dedicated classrooms for after-school youth programs, new spaces for year-round public events, and new headquarters for The Claymobile program. Also included in the designs are larger classrooms, state-of-the-art studios, an outdoor sculpture garden, and new gallery spaces.

The first exhibition in the new facilities will feature works by South Kensington-based artist Kukuli Velarde and artists Ibrahim Said and Molly Hatch. ‘Making Place Matter’ was timely for the Studio, exploring the meaning of place.The Clay Studio formed an Exhibition Council that included Kensington neighbors, artist Cesar Viveros, community organizer Iris Brown, and cultural partners, including Norris Square Neighborhood Partners. Together, the Exhibition Council is building a new community-centered curatorial model for The Clay Studio.

The $13.7 million capital campaign has expanded its services and spaces by 67 percent, paving the way for new possibilities for studio art, arts education, and community engagement. This model of communal engagement is also shown through The Clay Studio’s Community Studio, a space in the new building for exhibition visitors to engage in hands-on art-making. The Community Studio became possible through a partnership with Tiny WPA, and ‘Making Place Matter’ will officially mark the first time that The Clay Studio’s personal studio offerings and the exhibitions will be linked.

Tiffany Thomas’ Sprinkles and Confetti. Provided

But for now, there are four exhibitions to look forward to on location at 137-139 North Second Street, slated for June and July.

Earlier this month, the city’s preeminent studios and gallery for ceramic art debuted “Sprinkles and Confetti,” a collection of confectionery-inspired cups and mugs created by ceramic artist Tiffany Thomas. The Florence, South Carolina native was inspired by the recent birth of her son to create these pieces which consist of a variety of confectionery-inspired cups and mugs to celebrate the joy that exists all around us, even in the face of adversity. This particular exhibit will be on display until the 27th of this month.

Next up is “Falling Short of Heaven,” the latest body of work from alumni Resident Artist Peter Barbor, a Pittsburgh native. According to the release, through a provisional use of clay and adjacent materials, he is particularly concerned with exposing vulnerabilities in how historical narratives define our society. Inspired by Edward Hicks’s Peaceable Kingdom paintings, Barbor’s new collection explores the myth of America’s founding through sculptures of peaceful animals and their chimeric counterparts using ceramics and other materials. Barbor suggests America itself is a chimera with a body made of disparate parts, fighting with each other and threatening to destroy itself from within. At the same time, Barbor seeks to unpack the distortion of the peaceful scene Hicks imagines in order to understand how we can keep moving towards the ideal. If we illustrate how our society is falling short of heaven, perhaps we can determine how to get closer. “Falling Short of Heaven” will be on display in the Harrison Gallery from July 2 to Aug. 21.

Also on display from July 2 to Aug. 21 is is an original sculpture by Canadian clay artist Carly Slade. Titled “137 – 139 N. 2nd Street” this new piece of art is significant in terms of remembrance and embarking on a new journey. Slade’s sculpture is meant to capture The Clay Studio in Old City at this moment in time before they move into their new building in South Kensington later in 2021. Slade will use her miniature building skills to create an altered perspective scale model of The Clay Studio’s current home in Old City for this particular work, which will be on display in the Bonovitz Gallery.

Systemic Chaos – Urban Series by Kopal Seth. Provided

Lastly, on display from July 2 to Aug. 1 is a solo exhibition from Kopal Seth who was born in a rural town Khurai, India. Seth earned her BFA in painting with a minor in ceramics at India’s Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in 2018 and then traveled to the U.S., where she received her MFA in ceramics from the University of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2020. For her exhibition with The Clay Studio, “Systematic Chaos,” the artist will explore national Indian cultural history while contemplating the present and the future. As the release states, Seth’s latest collection of sculptures evokes the vibrant streets of Indian cities and towns, manifesting systemic chaos as well as stillness for the viewer.

For more information on the Clay Studio’s four new exhibits and its new facility opening later this year, visit theclaystudio.org