Kathryn Holt, president of the Board of Trustees, announced the plan to sell Clayworks buildings on February 3rd, and now she appears to have a potential buyer eager to go to contract. It could happen within days.
She points to numbers and says we have “lived beyond our means” for too long. That Baltimore Clayworks cannot survive here in Mount Washington, even if the debts are restructured, reduced and reasonably managed. Without taking responsibility for failures in their fiduciary obligations, visibly declining results in every measure, and poor governance for the years of their service, this leadership proposes to redeem itself with a fiscal flight of fancy.
“Fiduciary responsibility”?? More like a “cover your butt” numbers crunch. Does she really expect us to accept this?
That having money in the bank trumps the loss of a soul? That the story of Baltimore Clayworks is better told by bottom lines than by the creative joy it has produced and nurtured for so many, for so long? That it’s a good idea to end this era and embark on some kind of new adventure without a compass?
So exactly who will be pleased when that occurs? If the Board of Trustees sells the Clayworks buildings next week, who will be happy about it?
The folks who signed our Petition (now 769 of us) won’t be. We have petitioned, pleaded, negotiated, offered six figures in funds — all in a thus far futile effort to pause the sales process before it’s too late for careful thinking.
How about Clayworks donors and funders? The people and grantmakers whose generous support makes so much of our Community Arts, Resident Artist and other programs possible? Will be they be pleased or shocked to see the organization lose our signature Mount Washington home? To learn that executive mismanagement enabled by a non-responsive governing board caused operational declines and fiscal catastrophes of intractable magnitude?
What about the Clayworks staff? These capable, talented, hard-working people have endured so much in the last few years. It’s amazing that their loyalty and dedication have overcome the uncertainties, rampant turnover, and morale-busting developments of recent times. What do they feel? Who knows? The current leadership is so afraid of what might be said that the staff has been warned into silence, for fear of losing their jobs. (Great way to serve the people the nonprofit exists for, isn’t it?) So we can only guess what they’d tell us.
Mount Washington? Neighbors seem united in wanting Clayworks to stay in place, offering support to help us regain footing and return to healthier times.
The Trustees themselves? Would they be happy about the sale? Now that’s an interesting question. Every meeting begins with a Trustee saying, “Now, you know, NO ONE wants to sell these buildings.” And yet, each meeting and every message seems to end with thanks, but no thanks, to every offer of funds and professional advice, with the same “We know more, and we know better” attitude about what is best for Baltimore Clayworks.
It’s a frustrating story, isn’t it? That no one says they will be happy about selling, but no one at the helm seems to take note, nor seek out guidance. The iceberg is dead ahead, and the pilots are taking dead aim. What’s behind this fire-sale panic? This rush to turn our Clayworks into a memory?
Amazingly, it is a small number of individuals who have led this headlong drive, misled and persuaded others with misinformation and obfuscation, denied access to expert advice, controlled and restricted deliberations, and waved the flags of “fiduciary responsibility” and “mission of the organization” in a deliberate power play to manipulate these big decisions that affect so many. We urge the others in position to vote to slow the rush, demand clarity, and reclaim stewardship of this beloved Baltimore community.
If the misguided dash to push these rash decisions succeeds, what then? What more will Clayworks actually have when the ink dries? The answers: our name, our 501c3 charter, and a nest egg that we birthed, nurtured and loved, now coldly swapped for cold hard cash. And how long will that nest egg last, propping open a new place without a plan? Led by individuals who have scorned the tenets of good governance and accomplished little to nothing for this non-profit?
Will their Baltimore Clayworks have any friends left once they move away? How many of the thousands who have loved this organization in this place for so long will follow these leaders? We are real people, good creative people, generous people. People who had no say in the disappearance of a loved one. No chance to rescue the loved one from drowning.
Come on, people. Can we please sit down and figure out how to avoid that unhappy outcome? Can we please take a time-out to look each other in the eyes and understand what this is really all about?
The Clayworks Community Campaign will post again this weekend with calls for public action in opposition to this sale.