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The Creamery reorganizes; classes continue

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Photo submitted Items made in the kids' clay class at The Creamery Arts Center in Hotchkiss wait to be picked up. After-school glass, art and clay classes are held throughout the week at the Creamery.

A new ceramics class starting this week at the Creamery Center for the Arts in Hotchkiss promises to give potters of all abilities an opportunity for freedom of expression and creativity and one-on-one instruction.

Last Saturday, instructor Lucas Hoyt gave a presentation on the class "Intro to Ceramics: Wheel throwing, Handbuilding & Sculpture," and a visual presentation of his work to more than a dozen interested participants.

Hoyt earned an MFA in studio ceramics from Southern Utah University, where he was an adjunct faculty member. He also studied at the renowned Stonehaus in Florida under Peter King, known as the "father of modern architectural ceramics."

His one-of-a-kind designs and commissions range from curvaceous coffee mugs, fertility figures and flowing sinks to custom tile floors. While at Stonehaus his projects, including benches, staircases and landings, and fireplaces, usually involved between 1,500 and 5,000 pounds of clay.

Hoyt, who is also a tattoo artist, asked why he chose a particular material or design, he replied, "I enjoy challenges."

The Creamery has faced its own set of challenges recently. Just six months ago its future looked grim. The non-profit art gallery and education center, a showpiece of talent located in the downtown core for almost a decade, was looking at closing its doors due to lack of funding.

But things are looking up for the Creamery. A newly-established board of directors is in place and after-school and other classes are filling up. Hoyt's class is one of the many opportunities the public could see in the future as the board reorganizes.

The details of how that will look are being hashed out now. The goal, said clay studio manager, David Strong, is "to make the center a more integral part of the community." The entire facility, including the art gallery, isn't up and running, said Strong. "But we're working on it."

While the gallery remains officially closed, the Creamery has continued to hold classes in clay, glass and art since last fall.

The Creamery has provided affordable art classes since its beginnings in 2006 when it opened in a previously vacant and run-down building on Bridge Street. "The clay studio seems to be holding its own," said Strong. "There seems to be interest and a need in the community." The kids' studio is a big part of that success, said Strong. Programs have come and gone over the years, "But the kids' studio remains."

Because the clay studio is fully equipped to meet educational and creative needs, Strong has continued working to offer classes to area school art programs and special groups.

A big part of the center has been in exhibiting and selling works by local artists. While classes are going strong, the local economy isn't conducive to selling art, and the board is seeking creative ways to make that happen.

Using the space as a venue for live music and other performances is also being considered, said Strong. The Creamery hosted the Halloween Reggae Bash last Halloween, which was a big success and raised money for KVNF and Citizens for a Healthy Community in Paonia.

Beginning in February the center plans to offer classes in Raku, glaze development and use, carved surface decoration, and a class devoted to making lids, said Strong. Hoyt said his class is intended for students 14 and older and of all skill levels and interests. The weekly class is held Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m., with lab time on Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. .

The studio is now open three days a week, including Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 8:30 or 9 p.m. Those hours will likely change as part of the re-organization, said Strong. "We ultimately hope to open six days a week."

Frag Art glass classes with Linda McVehil are held Monday and Tuesday afternoons and Suki Strong teaches after-school art Wednesdays and Thursdays. All after-school classes run from 3:30-5:15.

As part of reorganization efforts, the Creamery ultimately hopes to be open six days a week again, and the hours will likely change in the near future, said Strong. "We will see what emerges in the future."

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