Community Proposes Compromise Plan To Save Baltimore Clayworks

The Community of Baltimore Clayworks supporters who have opposed the announced sale of two buildings in Mount Washington have proposed a compromise agreement to end the stalemate and return the organization to financial stability.

The proposal calls for the nonprofit to retain ownership and continue operations in its Studio and Classroom Building, pursue the sale of its Gallery Building and/or Parking Lot, and plan for an expansion into a Baltimore “arts district.”

WIN-WIN Solution Outline — download available here

A rescue fund-raising effort among Clayworks Community supporters this Spring raised $200,000. These funds would be used to address the organization’s urgent cash flow issues and pressing debts. The Board recently launched an appeal for funds, indicating that total debt levels exceed $1 million, including unpaid taxes and accounts in arrears as well as bank loans secured by the real estate assets.

“Everyone wants to save Baltimore Clayworks. This plan enables it to survive the financial crisis, take steps to reduce short-term and long-term debt issues, and continue programming without the drastic risks of a complete sale,” said Marsha Smelkinson of the Clayworks Community Campaign.

The controversy began in February when the Board of Trustees announced it would sell one or both of the buildings which have housed Baltimore Clayworks since the non-profit’s inception in 1980. The Gallery/Office Building and Parking Lot at 5707 Smith Ave., formerly a convent built in 1898, was donated in 2004 by The St. Paul Companies. The Studio/Classroom Building at 5706 Smith Ave. was a former Enoch Pratt Library built in 1918, and expanded 15 years ago with the addition of an annex.

Despite a community outcry for more answers and time to resolve the issues without facing a costly and risky relocation, the Board executed a letter of intent in April to sell all the properties for $3.7 million. The properties had not been appraised, and were listed for $4.5 million for less than 60 days at that point. The proposed sale first requires affirmative approval by the Maryland Board of Public Works, which has, along with State and local elected officials, urged the Board of Clayworks and the Clayworks Community supporters to work together in good faith to fund a solution that addresses both parties’ concerns.

Baltimore City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (District 5), who authored a resolution passed by City Council calling for the BPW to reject the two-building sale, has endorsed this compromise proposal. Also supporting this framework is Delegate Bilal Ali who represents the 41st Legislative District which includes Mount Washington and many constituents who are active members of the Baltimore Clayworks Community.

“We are presenting this ‘Win-Win Solution’ publicly today and intend to discuss it with representatives of the Board of Trustees at a meeting on Thursday, July 6, at the offices of Maryland Nonprofits, Inc.,” said Ms. Smelkinson. “We hope to agree on a path forward for Baltimore Clayworks that all parties will enthusiastically support.”

 At a Capital Subcommittee Briefing on Baltimore Clayworks in Annapolis on May 2, called by Delegates Adrienne Jones and Maggie McIntosh, representatives of the Board of Trustees and the Clayworks Community Campaign presented conflicting views of the financial crisis and potential solutions. Delegate McIntosh urged the parties, to “disarm” and “come together” because “you need one another.” Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, who had sponsored several bond bills benefitting Baltimore Clayworks in the past, and whose District 41 encompasses Mount Washington, recommended dialogue between the parties facilitated by Maryland Nonprofits.

 “It’s now 60 days since that meeting, and the financial crisis has apparently worsened to levels that threaten the solvency of Baltimore Clayworks and put its future in danger,” said Ms. Smelkinson. “A compromise that works is an absolute necessity, and we are ready and eager to see it happen quickly. This compromise is a win-win that will restore the strong community support and engagement that have been the underpinnings of a financial and artistically strong Baltimore Clayworks of the past.”

More information and an outline of the WIN-WIN Solution are available on the Clayworks Community Campaign website at this link:
https://2017clay.wordpress.com/win-win-outline/

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2 thoughts on “Proposal To Save and Unify Baltimore Clayworks

  1. Thanks to Marsha Smelkinson and the other members of the Save Clayworks Community Campaign, and state and local delegates that cared enough to pay attention to this community crisis, we may now have reason to celebrate as a new vision for a Mt. Washington Arts District begins to emerge with Clayworks at its core. Good luck at the meeting on July 6 – tomorrow! I only hope the board is ready to move forward, in new and more collaborative ways. Let the healing begin….

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