Here are some facts regarding the proposed sale of Baltimore Clayworks buildings. At the end of this message are links to reach the Clayworks Community Campaign for more information. We appreciate your interest and opinion, and want you to know why we oppose the plan to sell and move.
This message has been published to Mount Washington and to residents of other Baltimore neighborhoods. Please share with your personal network as well.
Why should you care who owns and occupies the Clayworks Buildings?
Over the past 37 years, Baltimore Clayworks has become a Baltimore landmark treasure, a Mt. Washington landmark citizen, and a good neighbor. It operates a world-famous exhibition gallery that attracts visitors, provides classes and summer camps to adults and youth, uses funds to provide art classes and services to underserved Baltimore communities both here and in satellite studios, provides studios for promising young artists from throughout the U.S. and abroad to develop and explore their skills, and more.
The parking lot on Clayworks’ 5707 Smith Ave. property is leased to the City, providing metered parking for shoppers, diners and other visitors to Mt. Washington Village. The Studio/Classroom building is surrounded by a tree-shaded lawn and garden with picnic tables and priceless artwork (including a fountain, sculptures, and a centennial mural), enjoyed by summer campers, students and artists, and visitors.
Do we know who the proposed buyer is? (The buyer who would occupy BOTH buildings, meaning that Baltimore Clayworks would have to leave Mt. Washington.)
We have no quarrel with a potential buyer. (We understand that the Board approved a letter of intent to sell to a non-profit organization named Itineris. The announcement that the contract was signed was made on May 31.) It is not surprising that another organization would want the opportunity to own such a beautiful home in this Baltimore neighborhood.
We believe that the Baltimore Clayworks buildings in Mount Washington are central to the organization’s well-being, and are preferable to any other imagined location. The specialized equipment, accessible and central location, beautiful and welcoming neighborhood surroundings all are difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.
What happened to the idea of selling just one building, and operating the (former Enoch Pratt building) Studio and Classroom building as Clayworks headquarters?
It may be that the sale of the Gallery Building would be necessary in order to return the organization to financial stability in light of the severe revenue declines of the past few years. Because the current and recent Clayworks leadership have chosen not to be transparent about the specific financial conditions, it is impossible for us to say.
All they have disclosed is that current debts total over $1 million. (At the Annapolis hearing, the interim exec said “between $1 and $1.3 million.”)
Was there an offer to buy just the Gallery Building? What happened with that?
The Clayworks Board elected to decline the offer for the Gallery Building from Sid Emmer ( which included a 2-year leaseback at $1 per year), which combined with community fund-raising ($150,000 raised in 3 weeks and held safely in an escrow account) would have solved the debt problem.
Why decline, with no negotiation or counter? Good question.
The only answer that we can figure is that the “leadership” wants to move out of Mt. Washington. Can the non-profit afford the costs of moving, refitting, leasing and operating a version of Baltimore Clayworks somewhere else? We don’t think so. They don’t know — they sent out RFPs just weeks ago, asking for someone to “develop a plan.”
So who is it that supports the idea of selling both buildings and relocating to an “arts district” like Station North?
Another good question. Board reps told State Delegates at a hearing in Annapolis on May 2 that there were many constituencies they serve other than the one represented by the Clayworks Community Campaign. So do these constituencies support the move? Why haven’t we heard from them? We do not know.
Here’s what we do know:
• We know that the “interim executive director” has made pleas for support to local organizations. Two that we know of have chosen to remain neutral. None have expressed support in public or in media.
• We know that he requested letters of support from several artists, who have declined to write them.
• We know that he has threatened various Clayworks members with expulsion from programs, and that they will be “barred from the building” if they express support for the Campaign opposed to the sale-and-move “plan.”
• After listening to presentations and answers for two hours at a hearing in Annapolis, Delegates asked the Board and the Community to meet in mediation (“facilitated dialogue”) at Maryland Nonprofits, to come together to “disarm” and reach agreement about the best next steps. Before the first joint meeting was scheduled, the Board proceeded to notify the Board of Public Works of their intent to sell both buildings. Good faith? Judge for yourself. Honoring the request of our State Delegates? Ask Sandy Rosenberg, Bilal Ali, Angela Gibson, Maggie McIntosh, Adrienne Jones, Shelly Hettleman or any of the others who were there. (If you’re interested in seeing a video of the May 2 briefing, visit https://2017clay.wordpress.com/about/annapolis-briefing-may-2/)
You have read in the news that the Board intends to go forward with this sale. Is the battle for Clayworks to stay in Mt. Washington over?
No, it is not. The sale must come before the State Board of Public Works. The Mt. Washington buildings were improved with the investment of funds provided by the State via bond bills, benefitting Baltimore Clayworks. The State has an interest in the use and ownership of these buildings, and the BPW will address that. Further, a real estate sale is not finalized until there is a buyer/seller settlement.
So we are continuing the fight to SAVE BALTIMORE CLAYWORKS. If Clayworks loses these two buildings in this sale, the organization itself will be in “mortal” danger. No one wants that. As Fred Lazarus wrote in a Baltimore Sun op-ed on May 1, “Baltimore needs a strong Clayworks.”
Supporters of a strong Baltimore Clayworks and members of the Clayworks Community Campaign (over 835 petition signers and scores more) are reminded of the adage, “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.” She has not sung yet.
What can interested residents do?
- Please sign the Petition (http://bit.ly/clayworkspetition). Include your email address to receive updated information.
- Write letters to your representatives and to the Board of Public Works (Governor Hogan, Treasurer Kopp, Comptroller Franchot). Find addresses on our website here:
- Visit, “Like,” follow, and comment on our Facebook page: @saveclayworks.
- Email your suggestions and thoughts to: firstname.lastname@example.org.