Artshack is creating community, one lump of clay at a time.
Artshack, a Bed-Stuy ceramics studio, has awarded 19 scholarships to BIPOC neighbors this year so far and plans to give out 50 more scholarships before 2021 is over, McKendree Key, studio founder, told BK Reader.
The scholarship includes a free six-week pottery course to build skills, connect with neighbors, make functional art and engage in the tactile therapy clay provides. Priority access is given to community members of color within a three-block radius of the studio.
“Clay is a really versatile medium,” Key said. “It is so tactile and so many differently-abled people can use it in different ways. It is therapeutic for everybody.”
Key began Artshack in 2008, initially running pottery classes out of her backyard in the neighborhood. Now, in its thirteenth year, Artshack has over 60 members, a brick and mortar location with a gallery space and a next-door annex, multiple partnerships with local community centers, nursing homes and a public school.
The nonprofit located on Bedford Avenue develops accountability as an “anti-racist, queer-affirming organization that celebrates the creativity of youth and honors people of all abilities,” according to its mission statement.
Artshack has given out 45 scholarships since its scholarship program started in 2019, and has held frequent free community days and subsidized summer programs for children and adults alike.
Artshack also hosts cost-free POC-only four-week courses for teens, taught by Nala Turner.
Key said eventually the goal was to make all camps and classes free for all children who walked through the colorful Bedford Avenue doors.
In 2018, there were about 155,117 people living in Bed-Stuy — 3.2% of those identified as Asian, 46% identified as Black, 17.9% identified as Hispanic and 30.1% identified as white. The poverty rate in Bed-Stuy was 27.0% in 2018, compared to 17.3% citywide.
Artshack starting working with The Human Root, a community development organization equipped in “interrupting bias’ and -isms in communities and institutions,” in 2019.
“Our mission is to make ceramics accessible to everybody,” Key said. “It can be a very cost-prohibitive hobby, or art form, for people. So, we offer community days where we have free classes for the neighborhood, we have a lot of scholarships and subsidized programs for all ages.”
Currently, 20 of the members are working members, meaning they get free membership in exchange for volunteering at the studio.
In order to continue to support their neighborhood with free classes, Artshack is hosting a fundraiser on June 12 to celebrate the solstice and raise money for more scholarships, free programs and resources for Artshack’s community.
For Key, these scholarships are vital to the fabric of the community she’s helped build.
“It’s a very community-oriented space,” Key said. “We’re not really interested in members who just want to do their own work and produce things to sell. We’re more interested in people who want to collaborate with others and have an active part in the community.”
For more information on how to apply for a scholarship, visit Artshack’s website.