Baltimore Clayworks Launches Fundraiser to Keep Operating this Summer, Needs $50K

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Photo via Mount Washington Village Association

With a $3.7 million sale in the works for its two buildings on Smith Avenue, ceramics nonprofit Baltimore Clayworks could soon have enough money to once again become financially solvent. However, assuming state officials approve the sale this summer, the group still won’t be receiving any of that money until at least September.

As a result, the Mount Washington-based group is appealing to the public to crowdfund at least $50,000 to keep it afloat for the rest of the summer. The funds would be used to cover “immediate operating expenses,” including wages for staff, teachers and artists, supplies for children’s summer camps, adult education classes and community arts programming, according to a release.

“We’re in a critical situation and need immediate financial help to keep clay and ceramic arts available to Baltimore,” said Devon Powell, interim director of Baltimore Clayworks, in a statement. “Without this additional funding, the organization might not make it to the completion of the contract.”

If it can proceed with the sale, the group plans to use the money from the sale of its buildings to pay off more than $1 million in outstanding debts that have accrued over the last 13 years, and retain an estimated $2 million operating reserve. It also hopes to purchase a new property within the city limits – possibly in one of Baltimore’s three designated arts districts.

The sale to Itineris, a nonprofit that supports adults with autism spectrum disorder, must first be approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works, due to the fact that the state has financially supported Baltimore Clayworks through a series of bond bills in past years. If it passes, Itineris and Clayworks will have 45 days to close on the sale.

As of today, the board hasn’t included the matter on the agenda for its next meeting on July 5.

The Baltimore City Council last week adopted a resolution opposing the transaction, and calling on the Board of Public Works to reject it as well. The board comprises Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.

The Clayworks Community Campaign, a group of Baltimore residents that opposes the nonprofit’s plans to sell and relocate, pushed the council resolution and has launched a petition drive. Marsha Smelkinson, a spokeswoman for the group, said today that she was aware of Clayworks’ crowdfunding campaign to stay afloat.

“I’m not surprised that they’re seeking money, because they have consistently said in public and to legislators and in the media that they are running out of money and don’t have any resources,” she said.

Unlike in the case of the sale, Smelkinson said her group doesn’t oppose the fundraiser. “Every individual can do what they want,” she said. “I signed up for classes again this summer — we’re not boycotting or anything like that. Clearly they are in need of money, and I hope that they do whatever they need to stay alive.”

The Generosity crowdfunding campaign has raised nearly $4,000 so far from four donors in 10 days.

Ethan McLeod
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