ART@HAND for 55+

ART@HAND is NCC’s series of accessible programs for enjoyment of the ceramic arts. Intended for individuals 55 years old or greater (and their families), ART@HAND incorporates lectures and tours, drop-in workshops, and hands-on activities. Supported by the Wallace Excellence Award, the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Arts Learning Grant, and the Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation, the program aims to increase access to the ceramic arts for adults who are 55+.

This multi-year award enabled the Center to strategically expand its program offerings, tailor its existing clay curriculum to meet the needs of older adults, and better evaluate all of its programs, teaching artists, and initiatives.  Our work under the Wallace initiative yielded several accomplishments, and several lessons learned.  Learn more about our accomplishments under the Wallace Award.

Whether you’re curious about clay or have worked with clay for years, these programs are a fun way to expand your knowledge with Northern Clay Center’s experts and exhibitions. Most events are free and open to the public unless a low-cost fee is noted in the description. Some events are especially for parents, grandparents, and kids to attend together. You must be 55+ to register for all of the following programs. Join us for a snack—all events include refreshments.

Learn more about our ART@HAND programming by viewing an excerpt from Creative Aging With Clay, a collaboration with Twin Cities Public Television, which tells our story of working with the 55+ population.

This activity is funded, in part, by the Minnesota State Arts Board through the arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the Legacy Amendment vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.


We know that our partners are wonderful resources about the interests, skills, and histories of their communities and residents they serve, and we actively seek your input. Our teaching artists focus on developing projects, lesson plans, and the technical aspects of each partnership.  We work with you to fine-tune the programs to meet the needs of your constituents.  Healthy collaborations are crucial to the success of each program.

Taking our show on the road

Northern Clay Center has provided offsite clay experiences since 1995, and is adept at containing and cleaning this necessarily messy process. Teachers come prepared with work trays for each individual, as well as small portions of materials, and wet wipes for messy fingertips.


People who attend ART@HAND sessions with family or friends develop strong memories and deep connections by taking creative risks and working side by side.

Working with clay and participating in creative experiences yield numerous benefits for persons 55 and better.  Our past participants, along with families, teaching artists, staff partners, and recreational therapists have reported a variety of positive outcomes from collaborative work with Northern Clay Center.  These include:

  • Improved sense of concentration, cognition, and happiness
  • Increased sense of purpose, accomplishment, and satisfaction
  • Decreased physical signs of stress

Additional reported benefits for participants who are in assisted living communities, with a variety of abilities and challenges, include:

  • Sensory fulfillment and improvement in arthritic symptoms,
  • Maintenance of fine motor skills and eye/hand coordination
  • Improved memory and recall
  • Noticeable decrease in isolation and symptoms of depression
  • Improved sense of community
  • Increased communication among participants
What our partners, participants and teaching artists are saying

Fr. Jogues Epplé, Episcopal Homes partnership,

Because of someone's kindness, we seniors were welcomed into the studio of Northern Clay Center. It was a humbling experience.

In Latin, humus means "soil, or clay." The idea is that if one is humble, one is "getting down to earth." When we are knocked off our high horses, we get humble willy nilly.One of our grand, truly grand, mothers told Kevin [Caufield], our instructor, "this (throwing pots) teaches us humility." It also teaches us to be human as in errare human est meaning "to err is human." Working in clay is a basic human joy when we are humble enough to get down to "where we ought to be."

The NCC experience was humbling. Tis a gift to be simple, as the Shakers tried to tell the 19th century, the first era of the Robber Barons.

One of the joys of being old is savoring gratitude. We returned to our home in St. Paul by crossing a great joy, the amazing Mississippi that rolls over lots of clay…our clothing was splotched with clay as our hands are with liver spots. We are too old for vanity. We can smile at the clay and the wrinkles from years of good experiences.

The clay dries up our skin. So does life. It seems there is no end to "the meaning" of seniors sitting beside a whirling wheel. When our wheels stop, the clay spins out of control. We have to keep on keeping on, or old age is just a waist.

In the film, Shawshank Redemption, the old con tells the new fish, "you gotta get busy living; or you gotta get busy dying." That is the challenge of being old. Old is a fine word. Who wants to be a senior? The last time I was, I was in high school, an experience I would not relive for the life of me. Old age is the third and final stage of me. Old age is the third and final stage of life. The secret is to enjoy aging as a fine wine, old, treasured, delicious.

The first North Americans left​ chards of pottery. The American Empire will leave the detritus of obese consumers. In the meantime, and these are mean times, we had a splendid gift of time to get basic, to play with clay.

A quaint word disinhume means "to disinter". The Latin root for humility and clay is also in disin-hume. Before we are in-terred, put into the clay, we will have few more generous hours than those at NCC where we worked with sweet Mother Earth, our Sister.

Staff, Episcopal Homes

Residents expressed their gratefulness for the opportunity to work with a professional artist—they said it improved self-esteem to see improvement in the quality of the work they completed. One resident said she didn't think she'd be "any good" at the clay work and felt more willing to try new activities in the future based on her successful experience in clay.

Staff, Partnership Resources

It was great to see some of the more secluded or inactive members of our agency interacting with their peers in a positive manner, while working on an activity that suits their interests. It allowed them the chance to interact and build relationships with others around them that they may have otherwise had.

NCC teaching artist, Bethesda Rehabilitation Hospital, Parkinson's Unit Partnership

He [a participant] explained to me that while he had his hands on the clay, the Parkinson's seemed to fade away.

NCC teaching artist, Ebenezer Ridges

From a personal level, this is not traditionally an age-range of participants I have had comfort with. From the first class, relationships were formed, trust was built, and the holistic approach to this building of community has been life altering. The work produced by participants, along with their increased levels of confidence with a new art medium, has made this one of the most meaningful teaching experiences I've ever had.

Staff, Ebenezer Ridges

When our seniors' work was recently featured in NCC's ArtHealthy exhibition, we went to NCC on a lifelong learning outing so they could see their artwork—they were so thrilled! We feel fortunate to have NCC partner with Ebenezer Ridges, to strengthen our life-long learning opportunities available on campus. Pottery is another opportunity for seniors on our campus to try something new and creative in a fun, supportive and relaxed atmosphere. Pottery classes taught by NCC allow participants to work on fine motor skills and hand strength, while tapping into their inner spirit.

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