History of ART@HAND

Wallace Excellence Award Initiatives 

Background Information

In late 2008, Northern Clay Center received a Wallace Foundation Excellence Award Grant intended to support NCC’s development of new programs designed to broaden participation by individuals 55 and older.  Over the course of this multi-year grant, NCC expanded its program offerings, including:

  • Participatory classes for 55+ers at Northern Clay Center and offsite (with our ClayMobile) with community partners who serve this population;
  • Guest artist workshops and lectures about historical and contemporary ceramics;
  • Tours of current exhibitions, meet and greets with artists, and social events for retirees, book clubs, and others;
  • Touring exhibitions and our permanent collection to libraries, community centers and other galleries in greater Minnesota.

This multi-year grant 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.  Read on for highlights from each of the calendar years of programming.

Are you interested in designing a clay program for your organization or 55+ audience?  Contact our Outreach department at 612.339.8007 x313 or education@northernclaycenter.orgClick here for our upcoming lineup of ART@HAND activities.

Year One, 2009
  • NCC established an advisory committee representative of our target populations and providers of services to 55+. This committee helped to identify our goals under this initiative, shape programming, and offer feedback and support.
  • We adapted and extended existing ClayToGo curricula for our target populations. Through extensive discussion with program directors, recreational therapists, and other field "experts", we developed a template for the process and schedule for bringing our services to the 55+ population who are residing in care centers, independent living cooperatives, hospital and clinical settings or who participate in day programs designed for persons with special needs.
  • We developed an evaluation plan and data collection tools in consultation with technical advisors.
  • We initially hoped to conduct 8 programs in 2009 for the target population, reaching 110 persons with 660 contact hours. Ultimately, we conducted 28 programs, reaching 535 persons with 2544 contact hours.
Year Two, 2010
  • NCC began distributing hard copy visitor survey cards at exhibition openings, special events, workshops and lectures. Additionally, we distributed online surveys to participants in quarterly classes and hands-on workshops. Preliminary analysis of data captured was conducted in late 2010.
  • NCC identified and began working with a market researcher, who conducted focus groups with current/former students and NCC program participants, prospective participants, and gatekeepers in the community who are already working with the 55+ population.
  • Armed with our findings from the market researcher, we identified a local ad agency and spent several months in 2010 designing an open house event that provides numerous opportunities for engagement for clay lovers, professional and aspiring artists alike, and people who are just plain curious about what we do at NCC.
  • A media plan was developed, as well as marketing materials for ART@HAND.
  • We adapted docent-training curricula for the target populations, with the help of the Walker Art Center's docent staff, and we enrolled new docents for and completed the first round of docent training in the fall of 2010.
  • We continued old and identified new partnerships with offsite organizations that serve the 55+ population.
  • During the calendar year, we conducted over 28 unique partnerships, reaching over 687 individuals.
Year Three, 2011
  • We announced a series of bi-monthly open house activities that were designed specifically for the 55+ population.
  • NCC's research showed that 55+ers are seeking experiential opportunities in the arts that allow you to look and learn, try your hand at clay, discover opportunities to engage with family, as well as old and new friends, meet artists, and socialize.
  • While we continued to expand the numbers of participants in our ART@HAND programs (on and offsite), we looked more closely at the role our teaching artists and gatekeepers were playing in the development of our programs.  Our evaluators worked closely with these constituencies to begin to develop a set of best practices for our future work with the 55+ population.
  • We reached record numbers of individuals in 2011, with over 2400 people participating in over 100 on and offsite ART@HAND lectures, workshops, demonstrations and extended classes.
Final 18 Months, 2012 – June 2013
  • In the final 18 months of the Wallace Excellence Award, Northern Clay Center secured matching funds for our work with offsite 55+ populations, specifically through grants from the Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation and from the Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Learning Grant [link to msab arts learning page].  These funds buttressed our work under the Wallace grant and enabled NCC to balance its long-term partnerships with newly created ones.
  • By mid-year 2012, it was clear that NCC’s work with this population was starting to get the attention of other organizations wanting to conduct similar levels of programming.  We looked more closely at the development of best practices that could be published and shared with our sister organizations.
  • In late 2012, the Center embarked on a collaboration with Twin Cities Public Television to tell our story of working with this population.  We jointly produced a 26-minute documentary, which highlights specific partnerships conducted under the Wallace Excellence Award (Ebenezer Ridges in Burnsville and Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul), the gatekeepers who made our work possible, the individuals who benefited from our programs, and the NCC teaching artists who delivered an array of really high quality programs for very specific populations.  The documentary was released in the spring of 2013. Click here to view an excerpt from the video.  Or, to purchase, visit our online store.  
  • We had another impressive year of audience building, with over 2900 individuals participating in over 90 programs.
  • NCC expanded its program partners to include individuals in care centers, independent living communities, and day programs, as well as such social service organizations as Volunteers of America and the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.
  • We dramatically increased the number of ART@HAND programs offered at our facility, including drop-in tours, social events, and workshops, and a Looking and Learning series, which presented attendees with an intimate look at the ceramic collections of local teaching artists and other clay enthusiasts.
  • Our goal for the final months of the Wallace grant is to craft and distribute our best practices under this initiative.  Additionally, we are developing ways in which to make the ART@HAND program sustainable, including teaching training and preparedness, fundraising, and logistical considerations for taking our show on the road. Check back for more information on our findings as it becomes available at the end of 2013.