We intended to write a blog about the health benefits of working in the arts – glass and pottery in particular. It so happens that one of our long standing students nominated The ClayGround for an Award this fall of 2022 extolling the many benefits of our establishment, health being one of them. Although we did not win the award, we certainly won first prize in our hearts and gratitude for the sentiment the Nomination Letter portrays about us. We want to share some excerpts of that Letter with you:
“It is with great honor that I nominate the Koplow family (Michael, Ellen, and Matt) and The ClayGround Studio and Gallery for the 2022 Howie Award for Outstanding Business and Community Supporter. The ClayGround is most deserving of this honor due to their unwavering commitment to the arts in Howard County and their dedication to creating and maintaining an inclusive and welcoming safe space that brings the joy of making art to all. …
My decision to nominate the Koplows for this award was an easy one, and grew out of my respect and admiration for all they have done for the Howard County arts community in the past 2 years. As a psychologist with a strong background in leadership, I consulted with several organizations as they navigated through the challenges of the pandemic, and one of the things that was quite clear is that, contrary to popular belief, COVID-19 did not change the culture of any organization…it revealed it. If you wanted to know who an organization was at its core, all you had to do was look at what they prioritized during this time of immense challenge. How the Koplows navigated through the pandemic exemplifies their commitment to and support of the local art community in Howard County.
When executive orders forced the closure of small businesses, the Koplows had to think through some tough decisions. Knowing that the current layout of their studio would greatly reduce the number of artists it could serve due to social distancing, they made the choice to undergo substantial renovations to change the entire layout of the building. While doing so, they chose to invest in making The ClayGround 100% accessible so that artists of differing physical abilities would have access to studio workspace and ADA-compliant restrooms. They kept their entire staff on payroll throughout the one year of renovation so that their own artists/instructors would not have to suffer or wonder where their next paycheck was coming from. They maintained their commitment to bringing the arts to the community with live social media events where instructors would do demonstrations and virtual lessons. They worked to establish a “What We Believe” credo and a set of core values to live by and both hang proudly throughout the studio. Since their doors reopened in May of 2021, they have delivered on every word.
The opening line of the credo is the belief that “Anyone can be an artist” and the classes offered at The ClayGround truly represent their commitment to bringing art to everyone. Offerings include ceramic arts, mosaic, and fused glass classes for all levels of artists from all ages. In addition to offering traditional classes, The ClayGround has developed innovative and creative programs that celebrate the power of the artistic process and bring art to those who would otherwise not be able to experience it. Some of these programs include Kids Create Classes for young children, Adult and Child classes that allow parents and children to share the joy of creations, art programs for home schoolers and specialized programs for groups such as Wounded Warriors. They also offer small group and team-building outings for corporations small and large. Matt Koplow, the resident Mosaic Instructor, knows American Sign Language and serves as an interpreter to students who are hearing impaired and, as mentioned earlier, the studio is 100% accessible for those who have mobility difficulties. In short, nobody is told “no”, and there is a place for everyone. This safe space and level of inclusion is rarely seen in our world, but it exists here because of the Koplows.
It is one thing for a business to “say” they support local artists, but it is another thing to “show” this support in everything you do. Not only is The ClayGround a constant advocate for and supporter of local artists, but it is a birthplace for them. Many local artists, including myself, got their start here and with quality instruction, strong mentorship, and a whole lot of encouragement, they have made the exciting (and somewhat petrifying) leap to selling their artwork. I don’t think i have every bared my soul to the world more than the day when I set up my first booth at Second Saturdays in Old Ellicott City. I could not have developed the skill and confidence to make this journey without the support of The ClayGround.
And this support extends beyond ClayGround clients. Take a quick look at the social media accounts for The ClayGround and you will see a level of support for local artists and other small business owners that is unprecedented. The ClayGround is the title sponsor of the Ellicott City 250th Anniversary Commemoration and the Koplows are actively involved in supporting small businesses in Old Ellicott City and throughout the county. Their ongoing service to the Howard County community has been recognize with citations from Howard County executives Alan Kittleman and Calvin Ball.
In closing, the Howie awards seek to recognize those who have made an impact on the artistic life in Howard County by creating, teaching, and supporting the arts and The ClayGround has consistently done all three. During the incredible challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Koplows put art first. They put people first. They put community first. And the Howard County Arts community is better because of it. They are so deserving of this honor. …”