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Baltimore Clayworks in debt and up for sale

Brendan Reynolds

In response to a growing debt, Baltimore Clayworks, a 35-year-old collective of ceramic artists in Mt. Washington, has placed its buildings up for sale, raising fears among its members of a break-up.

Kathryn Holt, chair of the board of trustees, said the non-profit organization is “looking to become a little more fiscally responsible” and “looking at a variety of ways to get there.”Deborah Bedwell, a founding member and artist, said the organization took out about $682,000 in mortgages over the past 14 years because of issues with the buildings and the 2008 recession. She said the collective doesn't have much financial support, but enough to get by.

"We had participation in our classes and people were collectors and customers buying ceramics, plenty of artists to rent studio space," she said.

Still, the board sent a letter to the students, teachers and artists that underlined the organization’s issues and plans. In the letter, Holt wrote that the debt had accumulated to $900,000 and the board had "agreed to sell one or both of our very valuable properties in Mount Washington."

"This is not something that will happen quickly," she wrote. "It will take time to determine our needs and to market our current property."

But Ann Geddes, a student of six years at Baltimore Clayworks, said the wording of the letter caused some confusion.

"It sounded like the board was afraid, that what they're going to have to do is sell our biggest asset, which are the properties in Mt. Washington, and relocate," she said. "The wording of the letter, I can see someone saying, 'Oh my gosh, it's a done deal.'"

Holt, however,  said nothing is a done deal. She said that while both properties are on the market, the decision to sell is still up in the air.

NAI KLNB realtors listed the two buildings and lot for $4.5 million.

Bedwell said that Baltimore Clayworks has excellent facilities and people, and if they try to move the studio building, they might lose such an organization.

Artists, students and teachers have been circulating a petition objecting to the sale of the buildings, according to Geddes. Holt said the board is interested in what the community has to say. The board and petition representatives are to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday.