Carbondale Clay Center needing help in staying true to its mission |

Carbondale Clay Center needing help in staying true to its mission

Scott Condon
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

CARBONDALE ” The 10th anniversary of the Carbondale Clay Center finds the nonprofit organization at an interesting crossroads.

Director Lauren Kearns said the Clay Center must reach a broader audience of supporters or it will be forced to stray from its mission. “We need support from people who value our presence here,” she said.

The center was founded to give adults and kids an opportunity to create using clay. It’s geared toward everyone from the casually curious to the established artist, according to its vision statement.

It offers ceramics classes for adults and also provides private lessons. Its residency program allows young artists, fresh out of college, a special opportunity to concentrate on their craft. Accomplished artists can rent the many kilns at the site. Local schools bring in students for special instruction. A gallery showcases the pottery and other ceramic works that were created by its members.

“I think we have as much going as we possibly can,” Kearns said.

There are nine instructors and more than 1,100 people taking advantage of classes and workshops annually. One of Kearns’ goals upon taking over in 2004 was to increase the level of activity at the center. The facility was often empty when classes weren’t in session; now its building at 135 Main St. in Carbondale is more of a regular hub of activity.

The increased activity is reflected in the organization’s revenue stream. In 2005, the Clay Center pulled in $83,233 in public contributions and another $4,000 in government contributions, according to a report filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Special fundraising events brought in another $22,413 that year while sales of products netted $5,195. Rental income produced $5,773.

Meanwhile, tuition paid by students and other program services raised $43,028 for the organization.

Its total revenues for 2005 were $163,642.

The picture is significantly different for 2007, Kearns said. Income from program services is projected to grow to $75,000, while direct public contributions will shrink to around $20,000.

A former primary donor, who had a connection with the previous director, has severed ties with the Clay Center, Kearns said. That’s been a significant blow to fundraising efforts, which the organization is trying to offset.

On the expense side, Carbondale Clay Center said it spent $113,766 on management and general items in 2005 along with $46,271 conducting its program services.

For the year, it was $3,605 in the black. Kearns said she and the board of directors are determined to operate the programs so they break even or show a slight profit. She said she inherited an $80,000 deficit and has reduced that to $30,000 in three years.

Now the goal is to build awareness and financial support among the community. The organization doesn’t receive a great deal of funding from the government or any arts association; it depends on small contributions from a cross-section of people.

The success or failure of the effort will determine how the Clay Center proceeds after its 10-year anniversary. There is a plan to expand the studio space and build a new gallery with housing for artists in the residency program, but it’s all contingent on building financial support.

If the effort fails, it will be difficult to stay true to the center’s mission, Kearns said. Instead it might have to “become more like a factory and produce little Mount Soprises,” she said.

“It’s not like we’re here to rake in the bucks,” Kearns said. “If we wanted to do that, we’d be doctors and lawyers instead of doing this.

“We just need help from the community.”