Student from Baltimore Clayworks Community Arts Seniors Class with original work

Baltimore Clayworks' Community Arts

Organization Associated with Program
Baltimore Clayworks
5707 Smith Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21209

Through its Community Arts program, Baltimore Clayworks conducts arts activities beyond its doors and collaborates with grassroots and cultural organizations, schools, and public agencies to connect artists with Baltimore’s underserved communities and provide access to quality hands-on arts programming. As a part of this program, Baltimore Clayworks runs a ceramics class for older adults in West Baltimore. Typically sessions lasting two to three hours are held once a week for eight to twelve weeks. At the end of each course, there is an informal exhibit, at which participants present to each other and discuss the work they have created. Once each year Baltimore Clayworks holds on the main campus a formal gallery exhibition of work produced by participants in the class for older adults. The class primarily serves older women giving them an opportunity for to come together to support each other and build relationships. A few participants have become cultural ambassadors, spreading the word about the program across the community.

Program History

Baltimore Clayworks is a non-profit ceramic art center that exists to develop, sustain, and promote an artist-centered community that provides outstanding artistic, educational, and collaborative programs in ceramic arts. In 2004, Baltimore Clayworks launched a program targeting older adults from West Baltimore to help fulfill this mission. Reaching out to these people has helped the organization broaden its view of community and connect people across race and generations. The experience of creating and sharing art created a level playing field across socioeconomic strata and provided an opportunity for the formation of unique relationships that would not have been possible otherwise. 

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Baltimore Clayworks uses a model called “measuring joy” to evaluate its programs. Evaluations are made through the use of audio interviews, attendance numbers, press reviews, written surveys, site visits, and observation of final work. They are conducted by Baltimore Clayworks staff and partner organizations. The Community Arts program was evaluated by the National Guild of Community Arts Education.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs
  • Be aware of your audience.
  • Make sure the building is accessible at all times, that people feel safe there, that there is a parking lot, and that it can be reached by public transportation.
  • Conduct long classes because older adults often work slowly.
  • Make sure program material is age appropriate and that you are providing high-quality instruction.
  • Make sure that older people feel respected.
  • Figure out a way for them to take ownership of their experiences.
  • Be flexible.
  • Go to the community and ask people what they want, then make the program for them and about them.
Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Viewing Artwork, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop
Arts Discipline: Folk/Traditional Arts, Visual Arts
Target Audience: Active Adults
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Arts Organization
Program Service Area: Urban, International Outreach, Virtual
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice