ART@HAND: Pause and Reflection

Northern Clay Center had to pause our ART@HAND programs during the spring and summer in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on entry into senior living facilities, hospitals, and day centers to preserve the health and wellbeing of residents and program participants. We know that higher-risk individuals have experienced extreme isolation in 2020, with the goal of preserving their health, but that does not make the emotional toll any easier. NCC teaching artists miss their students, and the students miss the social interaction and opportunity to learn and engage with each other. We asked some of our life-long learning coordinator partners to reflect on NCC classes at their locations and what these classes have provided for their arts learners.

“The Northern Clay program is greatly missed by our residents who get so much out of creating with clay. This program has been very popular in our building and many of the residents display their creations outside their unit doors on small shelves. They are having to stay in place in their apartments and look forward to the day that we can all be together creating once again!”
Jennifer Rutschke, Executive Director, Park Apartments

“The people living at The Heritage have greatly benefited from working with clay for creative projects, but more importantly the NCC ART@HAND instructors! The instructors have added immensely to the experience with great preparation and encouragement for people to make a project they value!”
Caryn Erickson, Service and Activity Coordinator, The Heritage at Lyngblomsten

“I can honestly say that our participants have definitely missed the clay classes during this pandemic! It was something they all looked so forward to—not only for socialization but also hand strengthening and using creativity. I had one participant say it was the one thing that made her feel ‘normal’ again."
Jill Riley, Recreation Therapist, Bethesda Hospital

“Open Circle Adult Day Services has had the absolute privilege of partnering with NCC for several years. Outside of our day center, the older adults we serve often have little to no access to creative pursuits which offer valuable and unique opportunities for self-expression and reflection. Thus, we strive to provide our membership with quality experiences which provide for creative expression. Our partnership with Northern Clay Center has enhanced and broadened this objective immensely. They provide access to professional artists/teachers and materials that Open Circle would otherwise lack. In fact, we have members who regularly reject art programming opportunities—save for when Northern Clay is on site. There is a real draw to working with the clay medium and the unique experience opens minds to trying something new. Northern Clay Center has consistently offered Open Circle’s adult day centers an engaging, accessible, and creative experience of the highest quality that transcends more traditional art/craft activities.”
Mark Rosen, Program Director, Open Circle Adult Day Services

These heartwarming statements remind us of the important work NCC does to make clay accessible; they remind us to keep planning for the day when we can come together again as a community to engage with each other and learn together. Though we have led some programs at a distance through virtual platforms, those opportunities cannot be provided as accessibly as we would like. The technology gap has left behind learners of all ages during this time of social distancing.

We are looking forward to the not so distant future when it is safe to work together again, in the same community space, with our hands in clay.

If you want to learn more about NCC’s ART@HAND programming, how a clay residency works, or set up a class or demonstration for your group, please visit our website or contact Alison Beech, Community Engagement Manager, at 612.339.8007 x 313 or

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