Spring 2014 Director's Report

Internally, we refer to it as “strategic objective #2”; the second of our four recently adopted operational objectives for the next 3 – 5 years of NCC’s existence; the objective whose success or failure is the most visible to our constituents. “Increase visitors, sales, and organizational visibility through renovation of physical facility and a new customer-focused culture” began as a concept really — an abstract idea approved by the board in  2012 that would eventually require unknown levels of planning and countless dollars of spending. Now, over a year later, NCC staff and board — with the support from many architects, engineers, program planners, and contractors, not to mention our long-time students and studio artists — has made great strides in working towards this strategic objective as we find ourselves moving steadily through what we’ve defined as the Phase 1 Building Renovation. 

In the late winter of 2012, NCC staff and select board members began to work with the Collaborative Design Group, a team of architects, engineers, and planners, who worked closely with NCC staff to “audit” the existing facility and helped create plans for a healthier and higher-functioning building — one that would meet our current programs’d needs and the demands of our programming well into the future. Fast forward through nine months of planning, measuring, observing, dreaming, sketching, and budgeting and here we all sit, typing away in an office under construction, the smell of paint fumes wafting, the feel of cold air drifting (through a propped door), the sound of some piece of metal cutting, etc. etc. 

We are all looking forward to the coming weeks when our office will expand again to its original size and yield a new room dedicated to photography (for online sales and our artists’ use); additional storage for files, pots, and stuffs; updated heating; and a general reprogramming. Our woodshop will be fully operational, with updated equipment and better storage. Our basement will be home to our vast supply of archives and shipping materials. Our egress and emergency lighting and signage will be functioning fully.

Following the office remodel, the construction team will shift its focus to the month-long project of updating our kiln room ventilation system and replacing the roof over the kiln room, two much-needed improvements that will ensure a healthy and safe firing environment for many years to come for our students, teachers, and studio artists. Artists who regularly fire NCC’s kilns are anxiously awaiting the renovation and have exercised wondrous amounts of patience, support, and understanding during the planning and soon-to-be renovation. Wares are piling up in anticipation of the fully-functioning kilns and improved ventilation in early February. 

Our Phase 1 Building Renovation will top off with a complete roof overhaul later in the spring of 2014 (dates to be determined … hopefully sooner than later if Mother Nature complies). By the time you all are reading our next newsletter, our projects will be wrapped up; our kilns will be firing; our new roof will be sparkling in the summer sunshine (well, maybe not really sparkling). 

Between now and then, and despite the occasional construction cone or pounding hammer or loud piece of machinery, we are still very much “open for business.” Winter and spring classes, and our ClayToGo and ART@HAND programs will go on according to plan, as we continue working to make our facility a better, more comfortable place for all of our guests — students, teachers, artists, and supporters. We encourage you to sign up for classes and NCC services as you normally would and invite you to stop in between now and the end of construction to take a closer look at our progress and to join us in celebrating our progress.

All of us here at Northern Clay Center hope your late winter and early spring months will be filled with your own “renovations” towards a happier, healthier living space. We look forward to seeing you soon! 

Sarah Millfelt