Clay Center Expands Access for Clients and Makes Plans for Coming Months | Life & Arts
Outside, near the back corner of the Clay Center in Charleston, the last tiles were laid out under an installation by Mari Gardner in the Susan Runyan Maier Sculpture Garden.
Morgan Robinson, vice president of marketing and sales at Clay Center, picked up a blue tile then smiled looking at the little face painted on the side by a young customer and said, “I hadn’t seen this one. . “
On the second floor of the Juliet Art Museum in the Arts and Science Center, staff members were still assembling “Tradition Interrupted,” the Clay Center’s new spring exhibit.
“There are a lot of huge pieces,” Robinson said. “This exhibition is about artists weaving contemporary ideas with traditional arts and crafts.”
Some of the works resemble old Japanese ink drawings or Persian art, except the subject matter is very modern and includes images from pop culture and contemporary ideas.
Robinson expected that at least one of the plays, “Tale of 1000 Condoms / Geisha and Skeleton” would cause a stir. A staff member had already called to warn him even before the watercolor was hung on the wall.
The VP of Marketing laughed, delighted.
Receiving calls about something a little shocking in the art gallery isn’t new, but with the traffic to the clay center having been slowed to a trickle for months, Robinson didn’t. had to file this kind of complaint.
“I can’t wait to get the calls,” she said. “It means the people are here.”
With spring underway and COVID-19 vaccinations statewide, restrictions for people in public spaces have eased.
The Charleston Clay Center has followed protocol in spelling out the guidelines and evolving recommendations of the CDC, allowing better access to clients and planning for what they hope will happen – a return to normalcy.
After months of reservations required to come explore the galleries, see a movie at the Caperton Planetarium and Theater, or visit the Avampato Discovery Museum, the Clay Center now allows guests to visit without calling ahead.
Reservations are always recommended, but not required.
Robinson said that during the pandemic, the Clay Center performed as well as anyone would have expected for a nonprofit.
Like almost everyone, they have had a difficult year. They’ve had to lay off staff, cancel and reschedule shows, and dim the lights more than any arts and science center or performance venue could want.
They went through the year without the same kind of ticket-buying audience and the usual, dazzling galas.
“But we were able to fulfill our mission, which is the most important thing for us,” said Robinson. “We were always able to bring the arts and sciences to the community.”
The Clay Center hosted virtual events for a community stuck at home and was cautious when it started allowing customers to return on a limited basis.
“Safety has always been our first priority,” she said. “We are a science center, so it is natural for us to follow the science and the guidelines.”
It went beyond best practices. The center has upgraded its HVAC system, which Robinson says purges air from the clay center several times a day.
They also add an ultraviolet light ionization system designed to kill airborne viruses.
“It’s something wonderful that no one will ever see,” said Robinson. “But all of this is a layer of comfort for our customers on site, especially in performance spaces.”
Live music inside the building is still on hold.
High-profile artists postponed for this year’s spring and summer from 2020 have either been moved again or are moving to later dates.
On September 27, the Beach Boys will be the Clay Center’s first big show in the Maier Foundation performance hall, but Robinson said the Clay Center plans to use the sculpture garden for a series of summer shows featuring featuring groups from the area.
The first show (date to be announced) would include the SpeedSuit group, led by Stephen Beckner, installations technician at the Clay Center.
“We are delighted that the first group includes an employee from the Clay Center,” said Robinson. “Our outdoor space has limited capacity, but we really wanted to get local musicians to work and get fans to listen again in a safe environment.”
Summer camps also return to the Clay Center, offering young scientists and artists the opportunity to learn more about art, engineering, robotics, and chemistry.
The Clay Center held a limited number of summer camps last year, but this year’s offerings have grown.
“This year we’re going to have eight full weeks of summer camp,” she said. “We’re still at a lower capacity, still practicing social distancing, but it should be easier. Children are more familiar with wearing a mask now.
One of the new camps is an outdoor adventure camp, which Robinson said was an idea developed before the pandemic by Clay Center education director Kayte Kincaid, who had taken an interest in the foraging in the woods.
“I’m not going to call it a survival camp because we don’t do any of that, but we will manage to educate the children about the local flora and fauna,” she said.
The camps have been reserving for a few weeks and some of them are already sold out.
Over the summer, Robinson said they hoped to open up the Clay Center more and there were projects underway beyond that. Details of a new Broadway in Charleston were being worked out and would be announced shortly. Robinson also said plans were underway for performances with the West Virginia Symphony and the Charleston Ballet.
“And we could have our own restaurant on site,” she said.
Robinson said the Clay Center is definitely looking to the future, but added that he has learned lessons from the past year.
“So many of us were working our own way,” she said. “I’m in marketing, but I learned to run the box office and run a show in the planetarium. I think we all learned as we went and appreciated each other here and what we do.
For more information and details on the Clay Center’s current exhibitions and summer camps, visit theclaycenter.org.